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Brake calls for urgently-needed support for suffering road crash victims

Campaigning road safety charity Brake appeals for more support to families affected by road crashes

Photo of smashed car: istock

4 July 2012

An appeal to government to use increasing motoring fines to step up support for suffering road crash victims is being launched today by the charity Brake, with support from Leigh Day and families who have faced the devastation of a road crash. The campaign is being launched at a reception in Parliament, days after the government announced plans to inject a further £50m in improving support for victims, which will be partly generated by a rise in fines collected from law-breaking, risky drivers.

Brake is highlighting the fact that road crash victims have been long-neglected in government funding, meaning there is a lack of comprehensive support available nationally, and many acutely suffering, vulnerable victims are left without access to the help they need.

Julie Townsend, Brake deputy chief executive, said: “Road crashes are sudden and violent events that leave families reeling with shock and struggling to cope with the practical and emotional consequences. These families desperately need help and support, but often are left out in the cold. While victims of burglary are automatically offered face-to-face support funded by government, there is no such offer for bereaved and seriously injured crash victims. It is vital the government recognises the profound needs of road crash victims, and their right to appropriate support, given that they are suffering due to man-made, preventable and often criminal events. The government is planning to increase fines for law-breaking, dangerous drivers; these funds should be ploughed into developing comprehensive support that’s available to all serious crash victims, to help these families cope with the terrible circumstances they find themselves in.” 

Sally Moore, head of personal injury at Leigh Day said: “We increasingly find that our clients, whether seriously injured or bereaved by road crashes, are completely in the dark when it comes to understanding how the criminal process works. As solicitors who specialise in road crash cases, we are able to support our clients and their families through this complex process and in doing so help them find out what has happened. From my own experience it is clear that providing that specialist support to families who have frequently had their lives devastated by a road crash enables them to cope better and engage with the process.” 

The forgotten victims

Road deaths and injuries cause horrendous suffering every day. Each day five UK families face the unbearable news their loved one will never come home because they have been killed in a road crash. 66 more families each day must come to terms with a serious injury, many life-shattering, some causing permanent disability.

These needless casualties are sudden, violent, man-made and often result from criminal behaviour. The bereaved and injured victims often experience long-term and acute emotional suffering and other serious implications such as debt, health problems and social isolation. These families desperately need support, guidance and information, but often don’t get it. 

Brake supports bereaved and seriously injured crash victims through a national helpline and packs, part-funded by government. But this remains a grossly under-funded area, with many unable to access a clear pathway of support. For every £10 spent on homicide support, less than £1 is spent on supporting bereaved road crime victims, despite there being far more deaths on roads than homicides, and despite these families facing similarly acute suffering.

Brake’s calls for action

At today’s reception Brake deputy chief executive Julie Townsend will speak of the acute needs of people bereaved or very seriously injured in road crashes, and difficulties they face in accessing a clear pathway of appropriate support, often exacerbated by practical difficulties and complex procedural issues, including through contact with the criminal justice system.

She will explain that at present many road crash victims are excluded from government funding, because no crime has occurred, or there is no criminal prosecution (due to the perpetrator being killed). She called on government to plug this unacceptable gap, given that all bereaved and seriously injured crash victims suffer terribly, from man-made, preventable circumstances.

She will urge the government to invest additional funding from planned increases in fines for traffic offenders [3] into services for road crash victims, to ensure there is integrated, comprehensive, specialist support available to all who need it.

Victims’ voices

The Taylors (from Collingtree, Northampton)
Beccy Taylor was 18 when died. She had dropped her sister Jess at school and was on her way home when the car she was driving skidded on water and crashed. Her mum Nicole, father Chris and siblings Nick and Jess struggled to find answers as to why it had happened and found themselves left without the support the desperately needed. Nicole said: “How do you find the strength to fight for counselling for your traumatised children when you’re speechless with shock and grief? As a family it’s assumed you will cope, but nobody checks.”

The Elbrows (from Thrapston, Northamptonshire)
The Elbrow family were on their way to the seaside when William Elbrow was killed aged eight by a HGV driver who crashed into the back of their family car. Mum Louise and dad Simon were left bewildered and without help to support William’s younger siblings Olivia and Thomas. Louise said: “You are led through the motions, but no one tells you about the gaping black hole that engulfs your family home once you close the front door. You’re told about court procedures and dates, but no one tells you how to tell a six year old his big brother is dead.”

The Carvins (from Morpeth, Northumberland)
Primary school teacher and mother of two Zoë Carvin was killed in a road crash aged 42 when a truck driver crashed into the back of her vehicle. Her husband Paul was left to help their two children Ben and Emily to come to terms with their loss, while he struggled with his own grief. Paul said: “I was stricken with grief. I’d lost my greatest love and best friend. But our kids were grieving too. You can’t rely on family and friends for months on end. You’re left wondering how on earth you are meant to cope.”

For interviews with the above families, email news@brake.org.uk or call 01484 559909.

About today’s event

Today’s reception has cross party sponsorship from Bob Russell MP, Mark Spencer MP and Kate Green MP. Parliamentarians are being encouraged to show their support for the campaign by posing for a photograph holding a Brake heart and signing an Early Day Motion.

About Brake

Brake is an independent road safety charity. Brake exists to stop the five deaths and 66 serious injuries that happen on UK roads every day and to care for families bereaved and seriously injured in road crashes. Brake runs awareness-raising campaigns, community education programmes, events such as Road Safety Week (19-25 November 2012), and a Fleet Safety Forum, providing advice to companies. Brake’s support division cares for road crash victims through a helpline and other services.

Road crashes are not accidents; they are devastating and preventable events, not chance mishaps. Calling them accidents undermines work to make roads safer, and can cause insult to families whose lives have been torn apart by needless casualties.

About Leigh Day & Co

Leigh Day & Co specialises in personal injury compensation claims for road traffic collisions, major transport disasters, life-changing brain and spinal injuries, amputations and accidents at work. We have been identified by the leading independent client guides as one of the country's leading firms of claimant personal injury solicitors.

Information was correct at time of publishing. See terms and conditions for further details.

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