Dealing with road deaths at Christmas – a traffic officer’s story

Steve Gedny, Family Liaison Officer, Roads Policing Unit
Cambs reporting line image

The role of a Family Liaison Officer within the Roads Policing Unit is a complex one, but put simply, we act as a buffer between the families of people who have either been killed, or sustained life-changing injuries, as the result of a collision, and the investigating officers.

I joined the police in 1989 and have been with Roads Policing for 19 years. Within this time I have also undertaken a casualty reduction role, which covered our education and outreach work, as well as being a point of contact for the media.

A really important thing to stress is that our anti drink and drug-driving activity is year-round, not just at Christmas. Naturally its profile raises at this time of year, as more parties and social events mean more people are tempted to take risks: but keeping people safe is a permanent priority.

It might seem like an obvious thing to say, but drink (or drug) driving is a hugely selfish thing to do. When someone is killed or seriously injured by a drink driver, it’s not just that individual who is affected.

Their family, friends and local community are all directly impacted upon – and it’s an impact that lasts forever…

If that’s not enough to make someone think twice about risking innocent lives as they drive a potentially lethal weapon whilst under the influence of drink or drugs, the impact of being convicted and losing their licence should not be underestimated.

It’s not uncommon for people to lose their job as a result of losing their licence and I’ve seen people’s entire lives unravel as a result of that one stupid, selfish act.

I can tell you from my own experiences in the job that people dying in this way, at this time of year, is particularly poignant. Although it was many years ago, I can still clearly recall attending the scene of a head-on crash on Boxing Day, in which three people lost their lives.

As we arrived we saw Christmas presents strewn across the road. A family of three were in one car: mum, dad, young baby; a father and son in the other. Sadly the mum and baby never made it to their destination. Neither did the 10 year old son of the man who had driven into them.

Of course we are trained to cope with situations like this and the nature of our jobs mean we see death and serious injury more than most people will ever experience. But those of us in the emergency services are as human as anyone else, and we get affected by the distressing sight of road deaths, just as anyone else would.

If you’re reading this and you’ve driven over the limit before, please think how you would feel having myself or a colleague knock on your door, to tell you that a loved one has been killed by someone like you… And if you’re normally a careful, law-abiding driver, who’s thinking they might just risk it, please, please don’t. That one selfish act can destroy so many lives.

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