This Road Safety Week (16th – 22nd November), organised by road safety charity Brake, the North West Air Ambulance Charity (NWAA) is supporting a campaign launched by the sister of a patient, who tragically died in a serious collision last year.
Elaine Wyper was heartbroken when she lost her sister Anne Kerr, nee Borland, in an accident on the M58, in Bickerstaffe, West Lancashire on January 8, 2019. The incident was caused by a distracted HGV driver, who was on his phone and texting whilst driving. Elaine, 50, from East Kilbride near Glasgow, has since started designing and selling Don’t Text and Drive #SaveLives car bumper stickers to raise awareness of the dangers of using a phone whilst driving and raise vital funds for the North West Air Ambulance Charity, which treated her sister at the scene.
Anne, then aged 50 and a mother of two children, was travelling in a minibus on the way to Pontville School, Ormskirk, when the 19-tonne haulage wagon collided with the minibus and six other vehicles. The driver was distracted on his phone, losing control of the lorry. Joe Cairns, 14, a student at the school where Anne worked as a special needs school worker, also tragically died as a result of the collision and five others were injured. The driver was later given a sentence of eight years and ten months for death by dangerous driving offences and two years and eight months for causing serious injury offences, to run concurrently.
Two NWAA helicopters attended the scene along the M58, manned by one of charity’s specialist doctors and two Helicopter Emergency Medical Services (HEMS) paramedics. The crew supported North West Ambulance Service (NWAS) paramedics alongside Lancashire Police and Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service.
Elaine commented: “Anne and Joe’s lives were cut short that day because someone decided to check their phone when they should have been paying attention to the road. It’s a terrible situation that could have been so easily avoided, and yet everyday people continue to put others at risk by looking at their phones whilst driving. I really hope that this campaign will discourage people from checking a text, responding to a notification or using their phone in any other way when they’re at the wheel. Through this work, I’m also pleased to be raising money for an important charity that was there for my sister when she needed them.”
NWAA is entirely charity funded, relying on generous donations, volunteers and fundraisers to remain operational. It takes over £9.5 million a year to fund the work of its highly skilled HEMS paramedics, doctors and pilots, who attend to cases of serious illness and traumatic injury 365 days a year.
Andy Duncan, Lead HEMS Paramedic at the charity, commented: “We are sadly called out to road traffic collisions all too often, and it never gets any easier to witness the devastation caused. These incidents regularly involve patients who are very seriously injured and in critical condition. These patients desperately need care at the scene before being taken to a Major Trauma Centre as soon as possible. The specialist skills an air ambulance crew provide at the roadside can play a vital role in these situations, giving patients a fighting chance at survival.
“Unfortunately, road traffic accidents can happen in an instant. Being distracted by your phone can be fatal, not just for yourself, but for your passengers and other road users too. We’re proud to support Elaine’s campaign for Road Safety Week, and join her in urging drivers to put down their phones to keep themselves and others safe.”
Steph Marr, the owner of Print n Gift UK, who has helped Elaine produce the car bumper stickers, commented: “Elaine was a teaching assistant at Northway Primary School in Maghull, where I grew up, and we have stayed in touch for a few years. Sadly there is no excuse for anyone using their mobile phone behind the wheel, never mind on a motorway! It was tragic for Elaine to lose her sister at such a young age, to such a tragic event that should have been just a normal day. Phones are such an everyday part of our lives, but deaths should not be, not for the sake of a phone. We were happy to collaborate with Elaine and make a hassle-free way of raising funds and that much-needed awareness. People can show support by going to our website and purchasing a bumper sticker for their car.”