Dangerous drivers have been warned by police of the devastating emotional effects their actions can have on others, as part of national mental health awareness week.
Sergeant Andrew Page, of GMP’s Serious Collision Investigation Unit (SCIU) based in Eccles, spoke of the life-long impact that one moment of carelessness or dangerous driving can have on the lives of a family when a loved one is cruelly taken from them, or suffers life-changing injuries.
The Unit, established in 2012, attended and subsequently investigated over 70 fatal collisions in Greater Manchester last year and Sergeant Page and his team have witnessed the devastation such incidents can have on families on many occasions.
Sergeant Page said: “A person’s life can all come down to one moment of carelessness or dangerous driving, which can end someone’s life and then have a lasting effect on that family, as well as ruining your own life and your family’s life because if you get convicted – you don’t realise how careful you need to be all the time when you’re on the road.
“You might think it’s alright, you can overtake a car or run a red light because you’re running late, but that split-second decision has massive ramifications on countless people and can end up ruining your life and a completely different family’s life for no reason other than making a stupid decision.”
After joining GMP as a constable on response on the Salford district in May 2009, Andrew moved to SCIU in October 2016 before becoming a sergeant less than three years later.
During his time in the team, he estimates he has responded to 30 fatal collisions, each leaving a family without a loved one and a responsibility for officers to provide them with much-needed answers, a duty he says is of paramount importance.
“The most important thing we do is get the family the answers. In our area of duty, no one expects a fatal collision to happen so when we go and knock on a family’s door and say that their loved one has died that’s completely out of the blue, and their life has been ripped apart, so for them to know that we’ve got the answers is the most important thing that we do.”
Understandably, it’s a role that can have a personal and emotional impact too on an officer and trauma incident support is available for police personnel after a deployment.
Sergeant Page encourages his team to speak to one another at work and also stresses the importance of taking time away from work for their own mental wellness.
He still spends time on the roads outside of work out on his bike where he likes to go out and cycle up to 30 miles, and also enjoys playing golf.
Speaking of the personal impact the job can have, Andrew added: “I enjoy this job and I think it’s one of the best jobs in policing but it’s arguably one of the hardest jobs too and we’re only there because people don’t drive properly.
“It requires a lot of resilience. There are incidents that have different impacts for different reasons. There was one weekend where I informed three families in the space of 18 hours of a loved one who had died on the road, which had more of an impact than anything else.
“It’s important when you finish duty you leave it at work as it can take an effect. I don’t intentionally do anything to take my mind off things, but I just keep busy by doing various things.
“Talking to colleagues is one of the most important things that we can do to be honest. Ultimately, you are seeing people ending their lives in one of the worst ways there is and you’re there to pick up the pieces, so talking to each other is one of the best things we can do.”
More information about mental wellbeing can be found on the Mental Health Foundation website here: www.mentalhealth.org.uk