Havering’s students told: ‘Drive dangerously and suffer like me’

PUBLISHED: 15:07 14 November 2014 | UPDATED: 15:26 14 November 2014

Nick Bennett who was seriously injured in a car crash

Nick Bennett who was seriously injured in a car crash


“Will they still be your friends and will they still visit when you are in a wheelchair? Because mine don’t.”

Five dangers young drivers must remember

1. Watch your speed

2. Wear seat belts

3. Ignore peer pressure

4. Don’t use mobile phones

5. Never drink or drug drive

That harrowing message from a car crash survivor left with brain damage and one leg, plunged the theatre-full of teenagers into tears.

Nick Bennett, 30, was crying telling students at Queen’s Theatre, Hornchurch, about the horrific consequences of the crash on his 18th birthday.

The Safe Drive Stay Alive event organised by the council, TfL, the Met Police, the London Ambulance Service (LAS) and the London Fire Brigade, this week warned Year 11 students of the dangers of reckless driving.

Many of the students, who will be gearing up to learn to drive in the years to come entered the auditorium enthusiastically but their minds were firmly on the dangers of driving when they left.

Paramedic left scarred

Lives are lost and families are torn apart by road deaths - but paramedics are left forever scarred as well.

The LAS’s John Matthews, who has been a paramedic for 29 years, told students of the deaths of four young men who crashed while not wearing seat belts which he remains haunted by.

He said: “The driver’s leg bone had popped through his skin and got jammed in the steering wheel because of the extreme forces exerted on him by the two young lads sitting behind him.”

He walked through the scene in a dream-like daze – it felt like he wasn’t there.

“Four heats had stopped beating, faces are pale and blue like marble. They became cold, very cold, all for dead, no more, gone forever,” he said.

“These young deaths appear so senseless and unnecessary, they can play on your mind.

“Nightmare images get stuck in your head and never go away - I have become a victim too.”

Each secondary school will see one of its pupils die on the roads on average every five years, LAS education officer Paul Jeffrey said, and Havering is a key area for such tragedies because of its affluence and fast roads.

“It’s a recipe for car crashes,” he said.

Bereaved mother Cheryl Robbins told the teenagers how she lost her son Phillip,

He had been a passenger in a car moments before he was thrown out of the window and into the air before he landed on the other side of the M3 and was ran over by two high-speed cars.

Teary-eyed students

Among the students to leave the theatre teary eyed were 15-year-olds Molly Lane and Meghan Mizen.

The pupils at Abbs Cross Academy, in Abbs Cross Lane, Hornchurch, both said that they had never planned to drive recklessly but Meghan said the event had changed her mind about wearing a seat belt.

She said: “I don’t normally wear a seat belt all the time but it made me think you should always wear one.

“I will also be more careful when I’m a driver especially when I have other people in my car.”

Both agreed that the horror stories they had just heard will ensure they never drive dangerously.

“My life as I knew it was totally over forever,” she said.

“I feel sorry for people who will never get the chance to meet him and have him touch their lives as he touched mine.”

A police officer recounted the pain and anger he goes through when telling families of the senseless death of road tragedies, while a firefighter and a paramedic gave the most graphic, gruesome accounts of the impact a crash has on a human body.

Between gut-wrenching accounts, a short film depicted a group of teenagers’ on a night out. After a good start, an unforeseen event saw them drive home quarrelling, drunk and distracted.

As the screen went black and the horror noises of a crash filled the theatre, one student said: “I didn’t see that coming.”

But why wouldn’t anyone see the devastating consequences coming?

Havering’s road safety officer Elaine Keeler explained: “They are in a digital age - in computer games you lose a life and you have another one but on that stage they see that real people have died.”

Mr Jeffrey added: “The difference is, this is real.”

As scores of students left the auditorium unable to cope with hearing Mr Bennett’s real-life account, let’s all hope they heed his message.

“Please, please, please don’t drive dangerously and think you won’t suffer the consequences,” he said as he dried his eyes.

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