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Road users are being urged to not get behind the wheel after having an alcoholic drink or taking drugs this Christmas.
As Cheshire Constabulary and Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service launch a month-long campaign to educate and target drink/drug drivers, PC Tony Hayhurst is pleading with motorists to not be the reason he has to bring a family’s world crashing down over the festive season.
The Family Liaison Officer (FLO), who is a specialist in delivering tragic news to loved ones and supporting them through a devastating time, said: “Last December there were 157 collisions on Cheshire’s roads, and on average one a day which resulted in serious or life-changing injuries.
“Sadly, three of the people involved in the collisions last December died.
“I am one of the officers who delivers the devastating news to the loved ones left behind following fatal collisions caused by drink or drug driving.
“When I get that call to tell me that I have to go and break the news to a family that their loved one is not going to be coming home, it feels like a kick to the stomach. Delivering that tragic news is undoubtedly the worst part of the job.
“A thousand thoughts run through my mind on the way to their home. Do they have children? What have they left behind? How are they going to react? Will they break down crying? Will they scream and shout? Are they going to hit something, or even hit me?
“I knock on the door and I feel that as soon as they see me they know why I am there. Perhaps it is the look on my face. Yet I have to mutter the dreadful words ‘I am so sorry’ and watch their worst nightmare become reality.
“‘We believe they had been drinking’, I have to tell them. Nothing can prepare you for what then follows… watching somebody’s heart literally break right in front of you whilst knowing that this tragedy could, and should, have been prevented.
“It’s not just dealing with the grief of losing their loved one that they have to endure, they can then be thrown into a whirlwind of financial hardship.
“Life insurance companies will often not pay out if somebody has died due to drink driving.
“Before those left behind have even had a chance to come to terms with the tragedy, they have to think about the logistics of running their family home.
“Can they afford the mortgage? The car? Will they have to uproot the children and move? How will the emotional trauma affect their children’s behaviour?
“It’s such a traumatic time for those left behind, and their loved one is not there to help.
“I cannot stress enough that even just a small amount of alcohol in your system affects your ability to react behind the wheel and can prove fatal.
“So before you contemplate driving after having ‘only’ a couple of drinks or a small amount of drugs, or getting behind the wheel after drinking or taking drugs heaving the night before, think again.
“Think about who will be waiting for you to come home, and think about everything you would leave behind.
“Even if you are lucky and survive a collision, you may take the lives of others or have yours turned upside down by life changing injuries.
“Please don’t be the reason that I bring your or other people’s families world crashing down this Christmas.”
Police and Crime Commissioner for Cheshire, David Keane, said: “The reality of drink & drug driving is clear, you significantly increase the risk of having a serious accident with life changing consequences that will have far reaching impacts on many families at Christmas and beyond. Cheshire Police Officers will be very busy patrolling the roads during the festive period to protect the public from these selfish and careless drivers and please be in no doubt, severe action will be taken against those who drive under the influence of drink or drugs.”
Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service’s Road Safety Manager Andy Gray said: “Every 20 minutes someone is killed or seriously injured on a British road, and more than twice the number of people died on Cheshire’s roads in 2018 in comparison to 2017.
“During December we have a number of initiatives where we actively engage with the public, educating road users on how to drive safely. We explain and show the consequences that drink/drug driving can have, yet people still put their lives, and the lives of innocent road users, at risk.
“Firefighters do a great job at rescuing people from collisions. However, sometimes it is just too late.
“They have seen far too many preventable fatalities and life changing injuries on the county’s roads.
“Drink/drug driving is not worth dying for.”