YOUNG drivers are among those most at risk of being killed or seriously injured in car crashes. HELENA VESTY reports on the efforts to keep young people safe on the roads

PEOPLE who have just passed their driving test are some of the most in danger of being seriously injured or even killed in car crashes. Emergency services staff say that many of the casualties could have been avoided.

Over the past year alone, there have been 657 casualty collisions involving young drivers in Greater Manchester. Looking further back, in the past 10 years, young driver collisions in the region have resulted in 133 deaths and more than 1,300 people being seriously injured.

Road safety is a constant concern for residents in Bolton. The borough ranked among the top ten for the highest number of collisions in the North West, with six people killed and 76 people seriously injured in collisions.

North West Ambulance Service paramedic Steven Blears says that young people should learn from the start about the sobering effects that a crash may cause. He said: “Our ambulance staff has seen all too often how a split second lapse of judgement can destroy lives in an instant. By highlighting to young people the devastating effects of careless driving whilst they’re at an age where they’re just starting out on the road, we hope that they learn vital lessons that will stay with them throughout their lives.

“A little bit of extra care on the road really can be life-saving.”

But young people in Bolton are trying to challenge the stereotypes of dangerous driving among young people and help their peers correct bad habits early on.

Motorcycle mechanics student Bailey Williams has formed an advanced driving course specifically for young people with the help of the borough’s IAM RoadSmart branch.

The 18-year-old from Heaton took it upon himself to seek advanced training, saying he did not feel truly ready for the road beyond passing his test.

He said: “I passed my test about two years ago and I really had to think about what I was doing so much. It was about being able to know what was going on around me and what I’m doing with my driving.”

After working through the ten-week advanced course, he worked with trainers to set up a session geared towards young people.

Mr Williams said: “Obviously the statistics are quite high for people crashing at my age, we’re trying to help them avoid that and give people an idea of the right way to drive rather than ragging about.”

The teenager is watching how the scheme develops and is hoping more young people will get involved, particularly after a break between their test and getting a car of their own.

He said: “Some people don’t drive for years after they have passed. If they are going to drive again, why not make yourself a bit more comfortable rather than struggling.”

The emergency services are also now urging young people to wise up to road safety and drop unsafe attitudes in a bid to save lives, launching the 2019 Safe Drive Stay Alive campaign. The road safety initiative began in 2013 and although the number of young people killed or seriously injured on the roads of Greater Manchester has gradually fallen since the project started, police say they are still over represented in casualty figures.

Chief Inspector Matt Bailey-Smith from Greater Manchester Police Road Policing Unit said: “Police officers are often first on scene at road collisions and our officers see not only the devastating impact for those involved, but also for the family and friends of the casualties.

“We are proud to play a part in the Safe Drive Stay Alive initiative as we see first-hand the devastating and shocking impact of accidents on our roads. The performances are powerful and thought provoking and we encourage every young person across Greater Manchester to attend.”

The emergency services staff who respond on a daily basis to horrific traffic accidents are going into schools across the region to impress upon young people the ‘the life changing impact a split second behind the wheel can have’. They, along with families who have been personally affected by crashes, are speaking out candidly about the trauma they have witnessed and how it all could have been avoided. By the end of the month, around 9,500 people will have given the road safety presentation.

Chief Insp Bailey-Smith said: “The day aims to challenge ways of thinking and behaviours, educating young drivers on the consequences of their decisions behind the wheel and as a passenger too. It’s a great way of educating young people in a way they can really relate to, and hopefully is something that will stay with them for life.”

Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service area manager, Damian O’Rourke said: “Our firefighters are called to serious road traffic collisions on a daily basis, and all too often witness the death or life-changing injuries of young people. In many cases collisions could have been avoided had the driver or passengers behaved differently, and taken less risks on the roads. Collisions often occur as a result of driving too fast, being distracted, drink or drug driving, or not wearing a seatbelt, and by taking more care on the roads, can be avoided.”