Society Magazine

Warning: Graphic Post – The Innocence of Youth…

Posted on the 20 March 2012 by Minimumcover @minimumcover

One thing we get used to on my Division is dealing with the carnage that follows an accident. Although we have a Roads Policing Team that should, technically, deal with anything more than a basic non-injury prang, they are invariably caught doing something exciting on the motorway or waiting to put a scrap-filled flat-bed-transit on the scales at the local (in the loosest sense of the word) weighbridge.

Occasionally we end up dealing with what is paradoxically called a ‘good one’ which normally means that significant damage or injury has occurred. ‘Good’ in these terms relates more to the amount of effort required to get things that spectacularly wrong rather than the level of pleasure we get from dealing with the consequences.

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Sarah and her best mate, Lauren, had been out for the morning, shopping and doing things that 18 year-old Uni students do when they are not confined to campus and the inconvenience of lectures. They had been to the big shopping center in a nearby city and spent the weeks food money on a couple of tops for next weekend’s social activities. Pleased with their purchases they had come back to Sarah’s car, proudly clutching the luxury branded carrier bags, and prepared to make the 12 mile trip back to the halls of residence.

The sun was shining and it was definitely starting to feel like the days were warming up at last. Sunglasses on, they drove from the city center out onto the ring road and then up onto the motorway. Three junctions later they were back on the A-roads and heading cross-country.

Lauren was messaging her mates back at Uni, telling them about what they had bought and other general chat and decided that it would be a good idea to show off her new top immediately when they arrived back home. Between messages she reached behind her seat and grabbed the platted string handles of her bag, pulling it through, between the seats, to the front of the car. With the thought of battling with a complicated top being her only real consideration she slipped her arms out of the sleeves of what she was wearing, laid out the new top on her lap and pressed the button on her seat-belt to allow a quick change and avoid flashing her underwear at any oncoming van drivers.

The glow in the footwell from the screen of her iPhone was an irresistible one, and she was unable to resist leaning down to check the message…drawn to it like a moth to a flame. It was from another student from her block announcing that she had just been chatted up by a guy on the English course and went on to describe what she thought of his body.

This was big news in Lauren’s eyes and she held her phone out toward Sarah telling her she should read what the message said. She wanted to see Sarah’s face when she read the news.

Sarah looked down…just for a moment… 

Dub-dub-dub-dub-dub-dub went the tyres as they rode the cats eyes between the double white lines on the approach to the corner. Sarah looked up as the sound of a twin-toned horn announced the presence of an on-coming car. There was a bang as the wing mirrors of the two cars met and a massive bang as the mirror on Sarah’s car slammed into the drivers window, shattering it on impact. Sarah reacted instinctively, wrenching the steering wheel over to the left…too far to the left, slamming the front wheel on the passenger side into the steep bank at the side of the road.

From the marks on the road it must have seemed like an eternity before the car finally landed on the tarmac. Having rotated in the air, the two wheels on the driver’s side landed first causing the car to roll a full 360 degrees before ending up on its right-hand-side, sliding along the road like a sledge on ice.

Lauren, who never got a chance to clip her seat-belt back in, was thrown from the passenger seat across the front of the car hitting the ground through the newly smashed driver’s door window. The road was moving past the window at 30 or 40mph like a deadly conveyor belt and the damage it was doing was catastrophic…

By the time the car came to rest there were clumps of hair dotted along the road for about 60 feet. Lauren was, thankfully, unconscious and Sarah was trapped in her seat, uninjured, but with her friend laying in her lap with the remains of her new top hanging from her shoulders.

After about 30 minutes of torture both the girls were removed from the remains of the car. Lauren was in a bad way. Her head was almost bald on one side and was soaking bandages crimson red as fast as they could be applied. I was sent to go with her to hospital in the back of the ambulance. Sarah was being treated at the scene for comparatively minor injuries – mostly cuts and bruises.

The journey to hospital was about 25 minutes and Lauren was closely monitored by the ambulance crew. They were, in fact, so concerned about her that another of my colleagues (conveniently an ex-ambulance driver) had been drafted in to drive while both the crew remained with Lauren in the back. We said nothing, but gradually the figures on the screen showing blood pressure and pulse began to drop. Lauren was conscious now and appeared remarkably pain free…we spoke about what had happened and I began to record her details in my notebook.

By now the blood pressure shown on the screen was that low that the paramedics felt sure that there must be some significant internal injury and I realised that I was no longer taking the details for an injury report but potentially recording details for the coroner. Lauren remained oblivious to the situation, protected by the innocence of youth from the reality of what was actually happening to her.

I finished writing and Lauren asked if I could call her parents and tell them what had happened. She gave me her mum’s mobile number, smiled at me as if to say thanks and I turned away, moving to the back of the ambulance to make the call. I spoke to mom for less than a minute before turning to pass my phone to Lauren so she could talk to her in person. Lauren was unconscious, her blood pressure through the floor and the crew were working frantically to keep her alive for the last five minutes of the journey.

I told Lauren’s mom to get to the hospital as soon as possible and ended the call.

Lauren never did regain consciousness. Her injuries were so immense that the coroner said that even if she had sustained them in the car park of the hospital she would never had survived.

The sad thing about this incident is that it could have, so easily, been prevented. Pressing that little red button on the seatbelt clip to release it for what seemed like a few insignificant seconds meant the difference between life and death for Lauren. The fact that the driver was inexperienced and distracted by the text message were a big part of the overall picture but, on their own, might not have caused the loss of a life.

Sadder still is that this is the sixth seat belt related death I have witnessed in the last few years, and the third to involve a student from the same university. I have to wonder when the message will get through!


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