- Mother speaks of family’s unbearable loss
- ‘Horrendous, indescribable pain’
- Leanne’s Gift – the road safety charity in her name
- Commissioner pays tribute
The mother of a teenage girl killed in a road collision, made an emotional speech to students in the Forest of Dean today at a Drive for Life event.
Heather Davies spoke of the loss of her ‘beautiful, bubbly’ nineteen year-old daughter Leanne, who was tragically killed in a car crash in 2013. Leanne was a passenger in the vehicle driven recklessly by her boyfriend, who lost control and crashed into a wall in the Forest of Dean.
Heather recalled the devastating impact Leanne’s death had on her and her family, to students at Gloucestershire College’s Five Acres campus.
“I don’t remember much else from that night except having this horrendous indescribable pain inside me. I had never felt anything like it.
“We all felt emotionally drained…our lives had been dramatically changed forever and we were never going to be the same people.”
Police investigations into the collision found that the driver, Paul Reddan, had been racing another vehicle at speeds up to 70 mph when he crashed into a wall in Longhope. Reddan, from Broadwell, was found guilty of causing death by dangerous driving and sentenced to six years in prison. He was also banned from driving for 5 years and will be required to take an extended test before he can drive again.
Heather told students:
“In October 2014 we attended a very tense and draining seven day trial, we listened to massive amounts of evidence …but we finally came away knowing exactly what had happened to our daughter that night.
“Paul Reddan did not set out to kill Leanne but through his ludicrous driving and irresponsible actions, we have been left without our daughter. I never ever would want any of you to put your families through the pain that we have had to deal with.
“My message to you today is we must all strive to not only continue to improve the way in which we drive every day, but also accept the responsibility that we all have when we take to the road.”
Following Leanne’s death, her family set up Leanne’s Gift – a charity which seeks to raise awareness of road safety in the Forest of Dean and provides financial support to the families of young people killed in collisions.
‘Drive for Life’ was organised by Gloucestershire’s Road Safety Partnership which is made up of the county’s fire and rescue service (GFRS), Gloucestershire County Council, Gloucestershire Constabulary and the Police and Crime Commissioner Martin Surl who opened the event.
He told the students,
“I’m sure many of you are looking forward to driving for the first time and I remember the feeling of getting my first car, and the freedom that came with it.
“But the harsh reality is that 25 per cent of you are going to crash within the first 12 months of driving.
“Sadly young people do die on our roads, and many have near misses. This is why in my role as commissioner, I have made safe and social driving a priority for the police.
“I’m absolutely sure that events like Drive for Life do save lives, by making young drivers like yourselves aware of the bigger picture of the impact unsafe driving can have on friends, families and your own life.”
Around 550 students aged 16-19 were given the day off from their studies to learn about safe driving and the consequences of driving irresponsibly.
As well as taking part in a range of activities and educational workshops, they viewed the remains of a vehicle that was involved in a local road traffic collision and heard from the emergency services about the actions they have to take and the impact on them. They also experienced the ‘ripple effect’ as a Family Liaison Officer broke the news to a victim’s family and witnessed the effect a crash can have on the human body.
Iain Robertson, Watch Manager with Gloucestershire Fire and Rescue Service in Winchcombe gave a hard-hitting presentation on the reasons why road accidents are so much more frequent amongst 15 to 23 year-olds.
“Nobody chooses to crash, but the under-development of the frontal lobe of the brain puts young drivers at a disadvantage because it controls risk-taking and decision-making. This can make them feel over-confident in their driving ability.
“The best way to keep yourself and others safe is to reflect on your driving regularly and act on your reflections.
“When you hear statistics about the significant amount of young driver casualties across the county, it’s easy to think it happens to other people. Well the truth is you are other people.”