Reducing harm caused by alcohol


Leaving work that Friday night I was looking forward to a nice but busy weekend with my family.

It was a miserable night and my husband and I contemplated staying in rather than going to the cinema, but having already booked tickets we decided we might as well go. As we left the cinema about 11.45pm it was pouring down and we were glad to reach the car and set off onto the motorway for the fifteen minute journey home.

My husband was driving and as we chatted away I was checking my phone when out of nowhere there was an almighty bang and I was flung forward, my phone flying out of my hands. I didn't know what had happened at first but when I looked up all I could see was us spinning towards a huge stone wall.

I can't describe the feeling of absolute terror knowing we were going to hit that wall. I thought this it, I'm going to die. 

I'm not sure what happened next. I felt the impact as we hit the wall and then spinning lights and screaming. As we stopped, I realised the screaming was coming from me.

My husband got out the car. In a state of shock I was trying to make sense of what had just happened. I was shaking uncontrollably and crying.

Then a man got out of the car that had hit us. I was aware of my husband asking if he was okay. He looked dazed. Then another two cars stopped. A woman came over to me and held my hands, trying to calm me down. I just kept thinking I can't believe we are still here.

I heard my husband asking the man if he was drunk. One of the other drivers was shouting at the man that he had been driving like a mad man and they had called the police. He didn't argue, he simply walked over to the side of the road and sat down with his head in his hands. The people in the cars that had stopped sat with my husband and myself until the police arrived. They were so kind.

It didn't take long for the other driver to be arrested and taken away in handcuffs. An ambulance was called to take my husband and I to hospital. I was still in shock, but was increasingly aware of pain in my head, neck and back.

Eventually getting to hospital at 1.45am, the place was full. I just remember lying in a corridor on a trolley in a neck brace not being able to move. Still in shock, I was cold, wet and frightened. I didn't know where my husband was, or how he was. The police came and spoke to me and took a statement. 

Lying there listening to the noise of a typical Friday night A&E, time passed slowly. Eventually I got put into a cubicle next to my husband who was also in a neck brace. We lay there listening to the endless rambling of a drunk man shouting in the next cubicle. Around 7.30am we were given the okay to go home. Standing up for the first time since the crash I felt the pain wash over me. My sons came to pick us up and I just wanted to hug them and never let them go. 

When we got home, we tried to go to bed but every time I closed my eyes all I could see was the wall and lights and hear the bang and screaming. 

A few days later we went to see our car. It was written off. I was horrified at just how badly damaged it was. Only then did it really hit me what had happened and how lucky we were to be alive.

The police called that afternoon to confirm that the other driver had been charged with drink driving. I felt so angry. How dare he? He could have killed us, and for what?

I wondered how he was feeling now in the cold light of day. Did he wake up and regret his decision? Did he even give us a second thought? Did he feel sorry for himself as he faced the consequences of his actions?

The impact the crash has had on us goes beyond the intial shock and pain. It's the flashbacks which I had never thought of as having sound but which I see, feel and hear so clearly.

I went to the cinema about six weeks after the accident and had a panic attack when I came out at the thought of getting in the car to drive home. It sounds silly but it was such a terrifying experience.

Before the accident, I was a confident driver but I have since sold my car because I know I would never feel safe in a small car again. I feel lucky to be here. If he had hit us just a bit earlier we would have hit the wall at a different angle, or if we had been in my small car, we probably wouldn't have been so lucky.

I am glad the drink drive limit has been reduced in Scotland. We need to remove any dubiety about how much you can drink and drive. Despite all the campaigns, some people still think it is okay to have a few drinks then get behind the wheel of a car. 

The message should be - if you're going to drive a car you can't drink at all. It's not just your life you are potentially endangering but other people's too.