The number of deaths on roads in the Horsham district has climbed to six in one month.
This week Sussex Police, West Sussex Fire and Rescue Service (WSFRS), Sussex Safer Roads Partnership (SSRP) and Horsham District Council (HDC) have sought to reassure the public that everything within the agencies’ powers is being done to avoid another tragic month on the roads.
Officials are collectively targeting the district’s young male drivers between the ages of 16 to 24 - not as a result of July’s fatalities.
For Gary Locker, central group manager at WSFRS, the message is simple: “Don’t let you or someone you love become a tragic statistic.”
His colleagues have been on the scene at every recent road death involving a young person.
“The effect of these fatalities is massive,” he said.
“Each of these individuals will have 50 to 100 close friends and they will know somebody who knows somebody.”
Fellow firefighter deputy district commander Richard Davy said he has lost count of the number of fatal crashes he has attended.
“I remember every scene,” he said. “You drive past a tree and think ‘I remember that one’. You remember the smells and the sounds. And it’s more impactive when they’re young.”
In the first quarter of 2012 the number of people ‘killed and seriously injured’ (KSI) on roads in the Horsham district was 18, according to figures from the SSRP.
Eight of those were aged between 16 and 24.
The KSI figure stood at 15 for the first quarter of this year, with four of those recorded as young people.
However this number does not count the recent spate of fatalities.
The agencies want to target driver behaviour as part of ongoing work to bring down the level of deaths on roads in the district.
Glen McArthur, of Sussex Police’s Road Policing Unit, said: “People fail to realise that their driving behaviour needs to change. It’s a big factor.”
The PC has been with the force for more than 20 years and says he too has lost count of the devastating scenes he has witnessed. A thought he brands, ‘sad’.
He continued: “I can remember every fatal that I’ve been to - the first was in Horsham. Personally, it’s quite hard.
“But it’s gone from just driving too fast or drinking too much to a number of other factors.”
He went on to explain that a driver could be distracted for a variety of reasons, and finding out how and why has become more and more challenging in recent years.
With ever-changing technology proving hazardous for those behind the wheel - such as portable music players - agencies are having to change tack for their campaigns.
The Community Safety Partnership based in Horsham has enlisted the help of a 22-year-old local driver who has helped design campaigns specifically targeted at today’s youth.
Posters - which are still in early stages of creation - warn of the potentially devastating consequences of changing music while driving.
“There’s no doubt about it - young males living in a rural environment are in our high-risk group,” said Greg Charman, who represents the group.
He believes a lack of public transport in the district’s rural areas is partly to blame. It differs to our neighbouring borough of Crawley, where the number of bus links are significantly higher due to its urban layout.
The Horsham district’s road safety was a top priority for partnership well before July’s tragedies, but the deaths have underlined this, added Mr Charman.
Agencies stressed education is key.
SSRP has 12 different events it can offer young drivers via schools and colleges.
One of the partnership’s most powerful tools is Safe Drive Stay Alive.
Held in The Hawth, Crawley, the hard-hitting show combines narrative film footage of a group of teenagers whose journey ends in tragedy with real life stories that are brought bravely to the stage by those people whose lives have been changed irrevocably by a car crash.
This works, but the difficulty is making sure these shows and similar education has a lasting impact, said community fire safety officer Jackie Boyle, who looks after Safe Drive Stay Alive.
SSRP will be supporting this scheme and strong message at schools with a follow-up New Driver Awareness course.
The officer wants to see road safety become part of the school curriculum.
But the agencies would only have a small influence on any national changes, including driving-related legislation, said Mr Locker.
Locally, the agencies plan to explore how an increased involvement from parents can influence young driver behaviour.
SSRP will be looking into the use of black boxes in cars. The technology - championed by a number of insurers - monitors driving habits which can be viewed by parents for example.
New initiatives are constantly being planned, and the agencies want to stress that working to make the roads of Horsham district safer has been, and will continue to be a major priority.
PC McArthur added: “Every time someone gets in a car or on a bike, think about every action that you make, because driving or riding is a privilege, not a right.”
For more information on the education available to the district’s young visit http://www.sussexsaferroads.gov.uk/ or http://www.westsussex.gov.uk/ or http://www.operationcrackdown.org/
Pictured here, representatives from agencies across the county gathered this week to discuss road safety issues; scene of a serious incident which is being used by the agencies to highlight road safety.