Dean Firmin is station manager at Kent Fire and Rescue Service and a magistrate at Medway Magistrate’s Court.
Dean says he has attended ‘too many’ road crashes over the years and feels so passionate about road safety that he now supports Brake, the UK road safety charity, by running workshops to engage young people.
Here, Dean talks to Three60 about what it is like to be first on the scene of a road traffic collision and tells us the one message he would like to get across to drivers.
For how many years have you been attending road traffic collisions?
Too many is the real answer, but since I joined Kent Fire and Rescue Service RS in 1997 they have been a constant incident type year after year.
Firefighters are often the first people on the scene of a road traffic collision. Can you describe what it is like to be in this position?
On route to the incident there is a hunger for more information; you want to know what kind of incident it is likely to be, how many vehicles are involved, what kind of vehicles, the number of casualties, the exact location (the address given is often completely different to where we end up) and who else is attending. On arrival you need to identify those most in need so you can prioritise and make sure you have the correct resources coming.
Are you still shocked by what you see?
Constantly; it would be trite to say that it is just part of the job, we are hardened by experience but still find some scenes really quite distressing. Although at the time we take it in our stride and focus on what needs to be done rather than the carnage before us. The time for reflection tends to come later. There are also times when the spirit is buoyed when we manage to get people out of the most difficult situations against all the odds and away into medical care with a fighting chance of survival.
Do you find that a particular age group is involved in more crashes than any other?
Unfortunately it is the younger drivers, those with less experience who want the thrill of speed but often overestimate their ability and don’t have that experience to foresee possible hazards.
What TYPES of crashes do you see most often?
The most common crash we attend is still one car, on four wheels with one or two occupants, on a country road, failing to negotiate a bend or other hazard.
We hear all too often about young people tragically losing their lives on the road. What are they doing wrong?
It is a mixture of poor driving coupled with inexperience, an inability to recognise the potential danger that they are putting themselves into and more often than not at a speed excessive to the conditions.
Tell us why you got involved with the UK road safety charity Brake
It was after attending a particular incident a number of years ago in which a 17-year-old male driver and his 16-year-old female passenger died in a collision. I knew that I had to do what I could to try and stop this needless loss of life.
How do you support Brake?
Mainly by voluntarily giving up days off to train people all over the country to deliver the ‘Engaging Young People’ programme.
Do you think young people are getting the message?
I hope they are; there is some fantastic work being done by a number of people and organisations to educate young people in the arena of road safety; from crossing a road at age four to remembering that the car you drive at 17 is potentially a lethal weapon and, that it takes the blink of an eye for something to change from fun and exciting to complete devastation that can stay with them for life.
You are also a magistrate. You must have a good idea of the devastation that road crashes can also have on the families who lose their sons and daughters in road crashes?
Yes, of course, although you don’t need to be a magistrate to see the anguish and loss. More often than not, those accused of causing road crashes that cause death or serious injury will be sent to Crown Court as our sentencing powers are insufficient, we do however, see and hear the need that families have, to believe that justice has been done and that their child did not die in vain.
How does it make you feel to see drivers in court who CAUSE the deaths and injuries of other people on the road?
Very sad, too many people on the road don’t think about other road users and the possible consequence of their actions, so much can change in the briefest of moments.
If you could be successful at getting just ONE message across to drivers what would it be?
Slow down; life is not a rehearsal. It is better to arrive five minutes late in this world than even five minutes early in the next.