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Gloucestershire Business News

Mother’s call for safe driving lessons in school

A mother whose son died in a car crash will go back to the college where he was a student, to deliver a message she hopes will prevent further tragedy.

Oliver Pain was in his second year at Hartpury University when, a month after his 18th birthday, the car he was driving crashed near his home in North Nibley, Stroud. His friend Harry Smith, 17, who was a passenger, also died in the crash.

Since the accident in 2012, his mum Becky has campaigned passionately to keep young people safe behind the wheel. She is one of a small number of bereaved volunteers who share their stories with students at schools and colleges around the county as part of a road safety roadshow called 'What if?'

Tomorrow's (May 24) presentation at Hartpury University will be particularly poignant for her.

Becky Pain said: "Hartpury is personal for me. It's where Oliver was a student when he had his accident and two of my daughters went to Hartpury as well, [but] that was the end for Oliver.

"When Oliver had his accident, Hartpury were very supportive, the students there. I think there are still some lecturers who were there when Oliver was there.

"What would Oliver make of it? He would probably roll his eyes and say 'not again mum', but I think he would be proud. My family and friends are proud."

'What if?' is part of a road safety education programme produced by the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner and Gloucestershire Fire and Rescue Service. It features the film 'Invincible Minds', which tells the story of how two students survived a catastrophic car crash which almost killed them. Their first-hand accounts, and those of professionals involved in the aftermath of fatal incidents, are the basis of the hard-hitting multi-media presentation.

Becky continued: "To me, it was part of my process of grieving, understanding and processing what had happened to Oliver.

"I found it actually helped me talking about him. Sharing the experience, though not giving too many of the details away. Just being able to share and make people aware what can happen in a road traffic accident.

"When I started, I just thought it would be one year, a couple of presentations and that would be it. But the support has been wonderful. The team that put together 'What if?' they're such a lovely bunch of people.

"I wanted to give something back from the support I was given when the accident actually happened to Oliver."

An estimated 40,000 young people aged 16-19 from schools and colleges around Gloucestershire have seen the programme since it began. This year, there have been 46 presentations across 32 dates in 27 locations and Becky says the reaction from audiences has been nothing but positive.

"I've had students come up to me, thanking me. I've had students saying can they give me a hug because they've been affected by the impact of the story.

"Recently, I had a student who realised how lucky he and his family were, after an accident they had about six years ago. He was in the car with his parents on the motorway and they had this accident and all survived. But it made him realise how different it could have been, what could have happened and the impact on family and friends as well."

'What if?' has had a profound effect on its audience, reducing some to tears, and is a hard watch. But parents believe the first-hand accounts are key to a powerful lesson that might one day save their children's lives.

Chris Nelson, Gloucestershire's police and crime commissioner, said: "Every young driver would benefit from seeing 'What if?' and I would like to see it in all of our schools and colleges.

"Hearing directly from people with first-hand experience of the devastation caused by a road traffic accident is the most powerful way of raising awareness of the vulnerability of new and novice drivers."

Cllr Dave Norman, Gloucestershire County Council cabinet member with responsibility for the fire and rescue service, said: "Every loss of life and every injury on our roads is unacceptable, and we want to make the roads a safer place to use for everybody.

"This roadshow aims to make young people fully aware of the impact a road traffic collision can have. It is a powerful way of raising awareness of the risks they face on the roads and how they can make safe choices for themselves and others."

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