Don’t land upside down and trapped – Road Safety Week

Don't let this be you. Cambs Fire and Rescue are supporting Road Safety Week.
Don't let this be you. Cambs Fire and Rescue are supporting Road Safety Week.

Cambridgeshire Fire and Rescue Service is supporting Road Safety Week (November 18-24) by sharing an inside view on being ‘upside down and trapped’ after a road traffic collision.

The fire service is taking the opportunity during Road Safety Week, organised by road safety charity Brake, to encourage people to take care on the roads, slow down and drive to arrive.

In 2012/13, CFRS attended 443 road traffic collisions and had to cut free people in wreckages at 159 of these incidents. The Service also had to recover the bodies of 19 people who tragically lost their lives as a result of these crashes. A further 323 people were injured.

Graham Stagg, Chief Fire Officer at CFRS, said: “Firefighters are the people who rescue and deal with the daily carnage of road crashes which happen far too often on our county’s roads. We would like to take this opportunity to remind people to stay safe on the roads and take care while driving.”

Featured below is a case study story by casualty actor who took part in a road traffic collision drill trapped inside a vehicle. We hope reading it will make drivers think twice about their actions on the road.

Upside down and trapped – an eye-opening experience

BANG - the car around me reverberated as the cutters started work. The pit at the bottom of my stomach dropped. I gulped, sweat running down my face, adrenalin pumping.

I looked around me and saw the inside of the three-door blue car, which had flipped onto its roof. Smashed windows, a seat above my head. There was a sunflower wrapped around the grab handle in the back. The pretty felt sunflower, maybe a baby’s toy, hanging lifeless in the overturned car. As lifeless as the dummy (my “paralysed boyfriend”) lying next to me. Cue big gulp and pumping heart.

I’ve never been in a car crash, so lying inside an upside down car waiting for firefighters to cut me out, was an ordeal. For Cambridgeshire Fire and Rescue Service firefighters at Stanground’s blue watch, however, it was just another day in the drill yard.

I can only imagine just how frightening and dramatic it must be for those who are trapped inside a vehicle for real. For firefighters, having to cut people out of vehicles can be a daily, yet sometimes harrowing, occurrence. It is a surreal experience – and one I hope to never go through again.

Kitted out in full protective clothing and with the car efficiently stabilised, I knew I was safe but that did not stop me hesitating as I dropped to the floor to crawl through the window of the car. Once inside I was a little more settled – that is, until the cutting started.

A casualty shield was used so I couldn’t see a huge amount of what the crews were doing to the bashed up car door, but hearing the reassuring voice of one of the firefighters giving me a running commentary helped prepare me for the bangs and pops of the cutting equipment and kept me calm. I can only begin to contemplate how vital it is for crash victims to see the reassuring face and hear the calm voice of firefighters when this happens for real.

It was only a matter of minutes but it felt like an eternity inside that car before the firefighters got the door off safely and ‘rescued me’. How bizarre it was that despite the fact I had managed to crawl inside, I felt utterly trapped and completely reliant on the firefighters outside to get me out. Seconds passed like minutes and I now see how casualties can go into shock so quickly during these incidents.

As the door was lifted to clear a safe exit, I glanced back around at that little yellow sunflower hanging limp in the back of the car and my stomach turned as I thought of the children that lose their lives on Cambridgeshire roads. But I was freed, out and completely unscathed.

Sadly, some of the real victims of collisions on our roads aren’t so lucky and how traumatic that must be, not just for the families of those who lost their lives but also for crews who day in, day out, have to experience these awful sights.

This may have just been a drill exercise for the firefighters, but for me this was a warning; take care on the roads, because you will never want to be in this situation for real.