'It's the only place you see injuries like that outside a battlefield' - police traffic officer speaks of harsh reality of fatal crashes

North Yorkshire Police Traffic Sergeant Pete Stringer has dealt with some of the most serious crashes and investigated exactly how they have happened.
North Yorkshire Police Traffic Sergeant Pete Stringer has dealt with some of the most serious crashes and investigated exactly how they have happened.
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A police traffic officer has opened up about what it is like to deal with fatal crashes in a bid to make drivers slow down, stating 'it's the only place you see injuries like that outside a battlefield'.

North Yorkshire Police Traffic Sergeant Pete Stringer has dealt with some of the most serious crashes and investigated exactly how they have happened.

He has also helped devastated families pick up the pieces in the aftermath

"It still gives me goose pimples when I think about the first time I had to deliver a death message to a family after a fatal crash," he said.

“It was more than 20 years ago. But it’s something I’ll never forget.

“It was a few days before Christmas and the family I went to see had been Christmas shopping. They’d probably been buying presents for the victim as the collision happened.

“As they saw me approach their home, they knew exactly why I was there before I’d said a word. And from that moment on, their lives would never be the same again.

“Dealing with fatal collisions is the worst part of a traffic officer’s job. Seeing someone who’s died of traumatic injuries is harrowing. It’s possibly the only place you see injuries like that outside a battlefield.

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“But seeing the look on the face of their husband, wife, mother, father, son or daughter when they open the door expecting to see a loved one, and instead see the police officer who‘s come to deliver a death notice – well, that awful moment stays with you forever.”

The traffic officer has opened up about the harsh reality of his job following the force's speed reduction campaign, Operation Vis, which saw officers target speeding hotspots across the county.

More than nine out of ten collisions are due to driver error.

North Yorkshire Police thoroughly investigates every fatal collision and its statistics show that inappropriate speed is one of the main contributing factors in the majority of fatal crashes.

Drivers who travel at 35mph rather than 30mph need an extra one metre to think before you can even react, and an extra five metres to brake. That’s an extra six metres in total.

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“It’s the difference between someone stepping out in your path and carrying on with their day after you narrowly miss them, versus someone stepping out and being flung over your car like a ragdoll and taking their final breath as they lie on the carriageway,” Sgt Stringer said.

“I’m constantly stunned by the amount of times I hear people say ‘but I was only a few miles an hour over the limit’… I’m also stunned by the amount of life changing or fatal collisions I’ve attended where the driver was ‘only a few miles an hour over the limit’.

“We deal with such incidents. They are real. They happen here in North Yorkshire. Nobody thinks it will happen to them. But it does.”

Sgt Stringer added that speed limits aren’t a target, they’re a limit. They are there to give you more time to think and respond, and added: “Trust me, if you saw what I saw, you’d never speed, even by a few miles an hour.”