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New Road Safety advert will tell real life stories

Environment Minister Alex Attwood will today launch new road safety campaigns which will feature four true-life accounts of road tragedy.
Thursday, 12 January 2012

Melvyn and Melissa will each recount how they sustained their injuries, and the lasting impact this will have on their lives. Poignantly Melissa will reveal that the one time she didn’t wear her seatbelt in the backseat has left her a paraplegic for life. Everyone else wearing seatbelts walked from the car.

Melissa said: “The worst day of my life was when I was told – Melissa, you’ll never walk again.”

Melvyn crashed his car when he had been drinking, speeding and not wearing his seatbelt. He has been left with a serious brain injury which has changed both his life and his mother’s forever. His mother says: “People need to understand it’s not just their life that crashes.”

The stories of ‘Martin’ and ‘Shannan’ will be told by their devastated parents.

Shannan McCracken was the only person in her car when she crashed in Ballymoney. She was a month short of her 18th birthday and had passed her driving test just six months earlier.

Shannan McCracken’s parents, Paul and Diane, tell of their devastation when their daughter crashed.

“When Shannan died part of us died with her…you never think that this is going to happen to you. Young people need to know that they are not invincible. It can happen to them. You need to be ready for the unexpected.”

Martin Gallagher was 25 when he was killed in a hit and run as he walked home from celebrating Halloween. The driver was drunk, speeding and had drugs in his system. Martin’s parents are bereft and have to live with the consequences of the driver’s actions for the rest of their lives. Martin’s mother says: “There’s nobody to tell you how to cope when you lose a son. You’re just broke inside – torn apart.”

Alex Attwood said: “Brave individuals and families have chosen to tell their heartbreaking story in the hope that they can prevent other people suffering in the same way. I am enormously grateful that they have told of their experience – I hope it is widely heard.

“They are ordinary people, like you and me. Their emotion is raw and very real. They each tell how their lives have been altered, in various tragic circumstances, and how road collisions have changed their lives forever.

“The over-whelming consequences of road collisions have far-reaching effects on family, relatives, friends, work colleagues and whole communities."

Mr Attwood urged young drivers especially to heed these messages, he said: “These stories are the stories behind the headlines. They don’t want other families to suffer tragically changed lives after losing a loved one on our roads - nor others to endure such life-changing injuries.”

The “Crashed Lives” television adverts will initially run from 12 January to end of February 2012.

Notes to editors:

  1. The new DOE Road Safety ‘Crashed Lives’ campaign will be launched by Minister Alex Attwood on 12 January 2012 at 11.00am in the Penthouse Suite Europa Hotel, Belfast.

    · Melissa Devine is a spinal injury (C5) victim from Derry who was an unbelted back seat passenger, aged 19, in a car which crashed in Letterkenny on 3 June 2002. The car was a wreck but the three other people who were wearing seatbelts walked away with no serious injuries. Melissa always wore her seatbelt but, this once, she was tired and took it off to lie down across the back seat. Her life changed forever, in a split second. Melissa is now dependent on carers who visit her home three times a day. She is certain that her seatbelt would have saved her.

    · Martin Gallagher, 25, died as a pedestrian in a hit and run collision on 1st November 2009 on Racecourse Road, Derry, walking home from Halloween celebrations at the Guild Hall. The driver was drunk, speeding and had drugs in his system. Martin’s parents are bereft and have to live with the consequences of the driver’s actions for the rest of their lives.

    · Melvyn Bussell crashed on 24 May 2002, aged 19, in Enniskillen. He had been drinking, was speeding and wasn’t wearing a seatbelt. Melvyn has been left with a serious brain injury and as a result, he is still very dependent upon his mother. Much of this story is told by Melvyn’s mother, Dawn, as he has great difficulty communicating. Melvyn’s mother’s life changed forever too from the moment he crashed. Her life has been turned upside down and everything she does is shaped around Melvyn.

    · Shannan McCracken was the only person in her car when she crashed on 24 July 2009 on the Bann Road, Ballymoney. She had passed her driving test just six months earlier. She was speeding and lost control, smashing into a tree. Her mobile phone showed that it had been active up to the time of the crash.
    Shannan McCracken’s parents, Paul and Diane, tell of their total devastation when their daughter crashed, just a month before her 18th birthday.
  2. 59 people died on Northern Ireland’s roads in 2011. In 2010, 55 people died. Up until 2010, the number of road deaths had never dropped below 100.
  3. Already this year, two people have died on our roads.
  4. A total of 14,522 people have lost their lives on NI roads since records began in 1931 and 73,450 have suffered serious injuries since serious injuries were first recorded in 1971. (The serious injuries figure does not include 2011 as this will not be confirmed until mid-2012 although it is expected to be several hundred).
  5. The Department first launched the original ‘Crashed Lives’ in May 2009. The two 50 second adverts reflected the reality of road crashes as witnessed by Dr Gerry Lane, a Consultant in Emergency Medicine. Three further cases were launched at the beginning of 2010 and featured two mothers who had lost their sons in road collisions. The third featured local Touring Car Champion, Colin Turkington, who, as a professional racing driver, warned against the dangers of speeding.
  6. A detailed personal account of each ‘Crashed Lives’ case may be requested through the Press Office, DOE Communications.
  7. For media enquiries please contact DOE Press Office 028 9025 6058 or out of office hours, contact the EIS Duty Press Officer on pager 07699 715 440 and your call will be returned.