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Mum reminds drivers of their responsibilities – two years after son’s road death

Written by on 10 January 2021

A mum, who lost her son in a road traffic accident, is urging drivers to remember their responsibilities on the roads and not pressure other motorists.

Tuesday 12 January 2021 marks two years since Sam Myatt careered off the road and into a tree whilst driving home along the A518 between Haughton and Stafford. CCTV showed that he had been tailgated by another car in the run up to the incident. He died a day later.

20-year-old Sam, who lived in Gnosall, had only passed his driving test a few months earlier.

On the anniversary of his death, we sat down with Sam’s mum Liz and Sergeant Darren Burney – who broke the news of Sam’s crash having been one of the first on the scene.

Darren: “On that evening, I was actually in Stafford Town Centre dealing with an incident of anti-social behaviour at the time. That really puts things into perspective when you consider what my next job was.

“Myself and another colleague were first on the scene having had a report that a vehicle had rolled off the road and into the nearby fields. It was clear straightaway when we got there how serious it was and the injuries to Sam were very, very bad.

“We dealt with what we could and colleagues from the fire and ambulance services weren’t far behind us and they did everything they could for Sam as well. We protected the scene and dealt with traffic before I took it on myself to talk to Sam’s mum in Gnosall.”

Liz: “I vividly remember answering the door to a police officer on the night of the crash and I knew straight away that something was wrong. I was told there’d been an accident and I instantly knew it was bad because I’d actually been diverted from it myself. You never expect to be diverted from your own son’s accident – but I was.

“At the time, I was told he hadn’t passed away so I always thought things would be ok, that he would recover from it but it wasn’t the case. Hearing your son’s been involved in something like that and might not make it is not something you ever want to hear.

“Looking back at it, I would say it felt like a dream. It felt like it wasn’t actually happening to me. It’s just a complete blur.”

D: “It’s an incredibly difficult situation for a police officer that. I’ve done it before and it will never be an easy job.

“It’s really difficult to prepare yourself because you just don’t know what you’re going to be facing, you don’t know how people will react to that kind of tragic news. Everyone takes it differently so you’ve just got to give the information as sensitively as you can and then do whatever you can to support them.

“Although, Sam hadn’t died at the scene – it was fairly clear to me that he wouldn’t survive. Obviously, that’s not something I could say to Liz, as you don’t know for definite, so I told her that Sam had been involved in an accident and she instantly knew it was the accident that had diverted her on her way home.

“She asked me how bad it was and I didn’t want to lie so I said it was really bad. From there, I took Liz to the hospital on a blue light run so she could see Sam as quickly as possible.”

L: “On arrival at hospital we were taken to a side room, I had family members join me and we were waiting for the news from the medical professionals there. We were constantly updated and one minute there seemed to be some hope and the next minute there wasn’t.

“They finally came to us and said there wasn’t any hope and that was when we were allowed to see him, right at the end, the following morning.”

“Sam hadn’t passed his test that long before his accident but he was a confident and competent driver.

“He was working a night shift at the time so was driving regularly in the dark. He’d been learning for two years and was delighted when he finally passed. It was one of his ambitions to buy a certain type and colour of his car and that’s what he did. I was so happy he managed to get what he wanted.

“He, like every new driver, just wanted to go out and drive all he could and that’s what he did.

“When you pass your test, you want to go out and drive all you can and that’s what he did…”

“It’s had a massive impact on my life and it’s never going to go away. I’m always missing a part of my life, somebody that should be here and I do think had he not gone to Tesco that night then maybe he would still be here.

“Nobody teaches you what it’s like to lose a child – it’s something you don’t prepare for or expect and from speaking to Sam’s friends, I know they’ve found it incredibly tough too.

“You don’t expect to lose a friend and it’s incredibly difficult to cope with the loss of someone before their time. I just hope people listen to what we have to say because I wouldn’t want anyone else to go through what I’ve been through.

“One thing I will say is that the support from the police since Sam’s death was, and continues to be, amazing. Darren and Paul, the Family Liaison Officer, in particular were great. I contacted them both a few times with questions and they’ve always been there when I’ve needed them – even now.”

D: “Hopefully stories like these will show people how real this issue is. I think people have got to put themselves in Liz’s position.

“Nobody wants to receive the news that she did and drivers have to understand the responsibility they have when taking to the roads. They need to look at how they would feel if they were involved in a fatal collision. If you were responsible for something that ended someone’s life, could you live with the guilt? It’s something that changes your life forever.

“When I knocked on Liz’s door that night, the news I gave her changed her entire world and that impact doesn’t go away. Sam isn’t coming back – this is real life.”

L: “Since Sam’s death we’ve done all we can to ensure young drivers in particular are aware of the dangers of the road.

“We’ve helped create a driving awareness course for young drivers with the help of Gnosall Parish Council and Staffordshire County Council. It’s based around mine and Sam’s experiences and it’s really focused on helping young and prospective drivers feel safer on the roads and giving them an idea of how they can avoid accidents on the roads – particularly while being tailgated.

D: “All drivers should give everyone on the roads the respect and space they need. A lot of drivers don’t drive to the conditions or they drive too close. Sometimes people need to be reminded that the speed limit is a maximum and not a target.

“When Sam had his crash, it was dark and wet, no lighting and it’s a 60mph road. The speeds at the time were inappropriate, there was another vehicle involved but there wasn’t a collision. We think Sam was being pressured by a vehicle behind.

“If you find yourself on a road like that and are feeling pressured then you should indicate for a fair distance before slowing down and pulling over, letting the behind driver overtake.”

“Most cars can reach 100mph nowadays so there are young drivers, driving at speeds where they don’t know how their car will react in certain conditions. The car reacts differently when you oversteer, understeer, when you’re breaking etc.

“It’s very easy to forget things but you need to remember how dangerous it can be – every time you get in the car.

“I would always advise drivers to travel like your gran’s in the car.

“Somebody you care about, somebody who’s vulnerable – remember the consequences of things going wrong and how you’d feel if your actions killed them. Be your own person and try not be pushed by peer pressure.”

L: “I would honestly like to see driving instructors introduce lessons where students are tailgated in a safe and controlled manner because from what I can tell, you’re not prepared for that type of thing.

“I think it’s important that new drivers are aware of the dangers it poses and what it feels like to have someone so close to you.

“The one message I want new drivers to know is that they shouldn’t speed up when someone is pressuring them from behind. Please just slow down, safely.”