NEARLY 4,500 students across Gloucestershire have seen a hard-hitting roadshow based on the experience of two young men who were involved in a car accident iin the Forest.

The ‘What If?’ Roadshow is an interactive theatre and film event aimed at reducing road collisions involving young people.

In March 2015, Adam James was driving a Vauxhall Corsa when it struck a pothole and plunged 20ft down an embankment near the Dean Forest Railway centre at Norchard between Whitecroft and Lydney.

His friend and passenger, Louis Turner, was taken to Southmead Hospital in Bristol by air ambulance.

The accident was seen by PSCO Peter Timmins who took the then 18-year-olds to Lydney Hospital where Louis’ condition was stablilised by Dr Steff Scheuner.

Their actions may have save Louis’ life.

In the roadshow, Adam and Louis take the audience through their experiences, exploring their emotions and the impact the crash has had on their lives.

The story is accompanied by on-stage talks from the emergency services and family members who have lost loved ones in road traffic collisions.

It aims to educate young people to be better informed drivers and to actively think about the dangers of driving, as road deaths are a leading cause of fatalities among young people aged between 16 and 24. 

Young people made up nearly 14 per cent of those injured in road traffic collisions on the roads in Gloucestershire in 2022, with three killed and 49 seriously injured.

The roadshow is jointly funded by Gloucestershire Fire and Rescue Service (GFRS) and the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner (OPCC) and has been running since September 2016.

This year, 24 colleges across Gloucestershire took part in the roadshow, which was attended by a total of 4,419 students.

The roadshow educates young people about the dangers involved in the ‘fatal four’ driving behaviours – inappropriate speed, distraction, not wearing a seatbelt and driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

Of the students who said they would consider engaging in one of the ‘fatal four’ while driving, on viewing the roadshow 94 per cent said they had changed their mind since.

Th road safety education team at GFRS are aiming to increase the uptake of schools and are looking to include other organisations such as sporting academies and university groups, to ensure that those beyond post-16 education have the opportunity to view the roadshow.

Gloucestershire County Councillor Dave Norman, (Con, Grange and Kingsway) Chair of the Road Safety Partnership, said: “This roadshow really brings home to students the potentially life-changing consequences their decisions as a driver can have. It is a powerful way of raising awareness of this impact and we hope that it will help to keep themselves and others safe on the roads.

The number of young people killed or seriously injured on the roads offers a stark reminder to organisations providing post-16 education of the importance of ensuring their students get to watch this roadshow.

“It’s encouraging that so many students who saw it this year said it had made them change their behaviour while driving. We are committed to improving road safety in Gloucestershire and this event helps us to share these important messages with young people.”

Gloucestershire’s Police and Crime Commissioner Chris Nelson said: “The ‘What If’ roadshow is a very moving experience for everyone who sees it. For some it will be life changing. Almost all the students who saw ‘What If?’ said it had prompted them to change their behaviour behind the wheel. For that reason alone, I would urge all organisations involved in post-16 education to find the time to include it in their busy curriculum.

“Young drivers are among the most vulnerable groups of road users and it is gratifying that so many novice drivers and drivers of the future have taken the opportunity to learn the lessons of ‘What If?’.

“Hearing directly from people with first-hand experience of the devastation caused by road traffic accidents is the most powerful way of raising awareness of their vulnerability as new and novice drivers.”