• Mother speaks in public for first time of family’s unbearable loss
  •          Students learn dangers of being irresponsible behind the wheel
  •          A small percentage still don’t get it, says Commissioner
  •          Councillor promises more Drive for life courses in 2016

It was a message that students in the Forest of Dean say will stay with them for a very long time – hopefully forever.

It opened their eyes to the consequences of acting irresponsibly at the wheel of a car – and the risk to life if you do.

Around 550 students aged 16-19 at Gloucestershire College’s Five Acres campus near Coleford were given the day off from their studies to learn about safe driving and the consequences of driving recklessly.

It began with an emotional speech from the mother of Forest teenager Leanne Davies who was killed in a car crash.

When asked to comment on the day:

  •          95% of students now more aware of the risks around speeding
  •          95% now recognised the need to be a responsible driver
  •          93% said they would always wear a seatbelt as a result 
  •          96% now realise the risk of using a mobile phone whilst driving
  •          98% would recommend the course to future years

‘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 said,

“These are very encouraging results, though it’s disappointing there appears to be a small percentage who still don’t get it.

“We have to keep hammering home the message as every analysis tells us that young, male drivers are among the most vulnerable and that young women passengers are most at risk when they are being driven by boyfriends.

“We have to keep trying to reverse that trend by explaining the reality to this age group”.

Following Leanne Davies ‘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.

Her mum Heather said

“It is encouraging to see that so many students have recognised the importance of safe driving and makes all the hard work of organising events like these worthwhile.

“It was the first time I had spoken to an audience about what happened to Leanne but I did it because we must all strive to not only continue to improve the way in which we drive every day, but also to accept the responsibility we all have when we take to the road.

“We will never get over what happened to Leanne and I never ever want any of them to put their families through the pain that we have had to deal with”.

Cllr Will Windsor Clive, cabinet member responsible for road safety at Gloucestershire County Council said,

“The drive for life course teaches young drivers how to make it safely through the critical first five years of driving.

“It’s superb to get such good feedback from the students in the Forest of Dean and we’ll be running more of these courses around the county next year.”