'The worst thing I have ever done is lower my son's coffin into the ground' - father of Otley crash victim shares his pain with young drivers during Bradford Manufacturing Weeks

Bradford apprentice Freya Leader demonstrates a road traffic accident'rescue scenario and is lifted from a training vehicle by West Yorkshire Fire and'Rescue as part of the Bradford Manufacturing Weeks driver awareness event.
Bradford apprentice Freya Leader demonstrates a road traffic accident'rescue scenario and is lifted from a training vehicle by West Yorkshire Fire and'Rescue as part of the Bradford Manufacturing Weeks driver awareness event.

“The worst thing I have ever done is lower my son’s coffin into a hole in the ground,” says Tony Davison. November 4, 2002 changed the lives of his family forever.

His son, Adrian, lost his life at the age of 18 in a horrific car crash in Bramhope, Leeds. The driver, Adrian’s friend, also died at the scene.

Members of West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue and around 70 Bradford-based apprentices took part in the event.

Members of West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue and around 70 Bradford-based apprentices took part in the event.

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“The pain of losing him in a road traffic crash 17 years ago is a pain which lives with us a family all the time,” says Tony. He now works alongside the road safety charity Brake and recounted his experience to more than 70 17-to-24-year-olds at a driver awareness day earlier this month.

“[The pain] never goes away,” he told them. “But if my story makes you think about your decisions and choices, then today will be a result for me.”

Since losing his son, Tony, of Otley, has worked tirelessly to try to prevent further loss of young lives on the road, raising awareness among young drivers of the risks that they face. In 2013, he won a national award for road safety education.

“I have first hand experience of the devastation that road crashes cause,” he says. “The horror of a police officer knocking on my door to deliver the news that my son was never coming home was a life-shattering experience.

“I want young people to learn from the tragedy of both deaths and pledge to put safety first when they get behind the wheel.”

Tony shared his story as part of an apprentices event during Bradford Manufacturing Weeks, a fortnight of tours, work experience, workshops and life skills training, led by Bradford Chamber of Commerce and attended by apprentices from Yorkshire firms including CarnaudMetalbox Engineering, Keighley-based Ex-pressed Steel Panels and Powell Industries.

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“More people should hear Tony’s story and understand how devastating and life-changing losing his son has been, because of a car crash,” says Regan Stevenson Midgley, of the latter. “It’s so different seeing a situation through the eyes of those who have been affected by it.”

“What really struck me after listening to Tony’s experiences is that we are so lucky because we still have choices that we can make,” her sister Molly, also an apprentice at Powell Industries, adds.

“Tony’s son doesn’t. We have the choice to shape the way we behave and what we do can and will impact on other people if we take unnecessary risks. You wouldn’t want to live with that.”

The driver awareness event included a live demonstration of an individual being cut from a car, a collision case study and workshops covering drink and drug driving, with West Yorkshire Police and the county’s fire service both involved.

Matt Wolski, head of trauma and technical rescue training at the latter, says it helped to get the message across. “When young apprentices first start work and get their first few pay packets, it’s understandable that they want to go and buy a car and sometimes that’s for the adrenaline and the thrill,” he says. “But the most dangerous emotion is feeling invincible.

“Unfortunately, I have been at incidents and seen the life drain out of somebody before my eyes - and that will live with me forever.

“As an employer, if you’re investing in an apprentice and giving them the means to afford to drive, it would be an absolute tragedy to lose that person in an accident because they weren’t well enough informed of the life changing consequences of driving recklessly.

“Training like this...should be a regular thing for apprentices and all young people.

“The more who see and experience the real life demonstrations, the talks and see the consequences, the more awareness we raise and the more lives are saved.”