Bereaved family campaigning on drug driving receive national charity award

PRESS RELEASE from Brake, the road safety charity

Megan Natasha_and_Michaela_GrovesThe family of Lillian Groves, killed by a drug driver aged just 14, have won a national award for their work campaigning for a new law to crack down on dangerous drug drivers.  The ‘Road Safety Campaigner of the Year’ award is given each year by Brake, the road safety charity, sponsored by Direct Line Group, to a campaigner or group who have shown great resolve in pursuing a campaign to make roads safer and prevent further tragedies. See below for more on the Groves’ campaign for Lillian’s Law.

The family received the award at ceremony at the Houses of Parliament yesterday evening, attended by politicians, high-
Megan, Natasha, and Michaela Groves.          ranking police and fire officers, road safety campaigners, fundraisers and professionals, company executives and press. 

Natasha Groves, Lillian’s mum, said: “Lillian was a wonderful young woman who did not deserve to die. She lit up rooms and gave warmth to everyone she met. A child being so suddenly killed, in such a needless and destructive way, is something that tears a hole in the heart of your family; it creates a shadow over your home you can’t get away from. But as a family, we felt we couldn’t be defeated; we needed to do something to prevent others suffering the way we have. We could see the law needed to be changed, and roadside testing introduced, to stamp out the menace of drug driving. So we fought hard for Lillian’s Law, and were delighted to get the government’s commitment.

“Nothing will ever make up for the travesty of Lillian being stolen from us, but it does help to know that in the future, Lillian’s Law will help to save others from death or injury at the hands of drug drivers. We are really pleased to have the campaign recognised by Brake, who have been fighting for a drug driving law for many years, and supported us throughout to help make it happen.”    

Julie Townsend, deputy chief executive, Brake, the road safety charity, said: “The Groves family can feel very proud of what they have achieved in memory of their loved one Lillian. They took their campaign to the very top, pushing their message through national media, and then meeting the Prime Minister, achieving a firm commitment from government. Great progress is now being made on developing the details of this important new drug driving law and a roadside testing regime, and we are confident that when passed, it will be a critical stride forward in ending this deadly menace. The Groves have been instrumental in affecting this change. Speaking out after a sudden and utterly devastating bereavement, and pushing a campaign through, takes incredible strength. We are delighted to be able to give this award to such a strong and determined family, who very much deserve it.”

Read more on Brake's campaign for zero tolerance on drug driving.

About the campaign for Lillian’s Law

In June 2010 Lillian Groves, 14, was killed outside her home in New Addington by John Page, who had been smoking cannabis. He was convicted of causing her death by careless driving and sentenced to eight months in jail, reduced to four months for an early plea. He was released after just eight weeks.

Her family set up a campaign for calling for a new law making it a specific offence to drive on any amount of illegal drugs and calling for roadside drug screening equipment so police can conduct widespread testing. Currently it is only offence to drive while impaired by drugs, making prosecuting drug drivers difficult.

The Groves family created a petition, and worked with the Croydon Advertiser to rally support. Along with their MP Gavin Barwell, they met with then road safety Minister Mike Penning, and PM David Cameron to push for changes in the law.

Throughout this period the Groves tirelessly campaigned in the media with support from Brake, appearing on The One Show, Lorraine and BBC Breakfast to raise awareness of the need for a change in the law.

In May's Queen's Speech, the government announced it will pass a new law making it an offence to drive under the influence of drugs in England, Scotland and Wales. Drivers breaking the law will face up to six months in jail, a maximum fine of £5,000 and an automatic driving ban of 12 months. Police will be equipped with handheld drug detector devices, which will take a saliva sample.

The government is now expected to have passed the law and type approved devices to screen for controlled drugs at the roadside by summer 2014. The bill to introduce the new laws recently went back to the House of Commons for a second reading. Read more.

Facts

Drug driving is a widespread menace. In the UK, around 18% of people killed in road crashes have traces of illegal drugs in their blood, with cannabis being the most common [1]. Young drivers are much more likely to take illegal drugs and drive than their older counterparts. Drivers under 25 years old are nearly four times as likely to drive on illegal drugs as older drivers (11% compared to 3%)[2].

Different drugs affect people in different ways and effects can last for days, sometimes without someone realising. Researchers at the University Claude Bernard in France, found taking cannabis almost doubles the risk of being in a fatal car crash while mixing cannabis with alcohol increased crash risk 16-fold [3].

Advice for drivers
Drugs and driving is a deadly combination. Illegal drugs can affect a driver's behaviour and body in all sorts of dangerous and unpredictable ways, including: slower reaction times, poor concentration, sleepiness/fatigue, confused thinking, distorted perception and over-confidence. The effects of lack of sleep can also affect illegal drug users for days [4]. The message is simple, if you are driving, don't take illegal drugs, and if you are taking illegal drugs, don't drive until you have completely recovered.

Brake

Brake is an independent road safety charity. Brake exists to stop the five deaths and 66 serious injuries that happen on UK roads every day and to care for families bereaved and seriously injured in road crashes. Brake runs awareness-raising campaigns, community education programmes, events such as Road Safety Week (18-24 November 2013), and a Fleet Safety Forum, providing advice to companies. Brake’s support division cares for road crash victims through a helpline and other services.

Road crashes are not accidents; they are devastating and preventable events, not chance mishaps. Calling them accidents undermines work to make roads safer, and can cause insult to families whose lives have been torn apart by needless casualties.

Direct Line Insurance Group plc

Direct Line Insurance Group plc (Direct Line Group) is headquartered in Bromley, Kent; it has operations in the UK, Germany and Italy.

Through its number of well known brands Direct Line Group offers a wide range of general insurance products to consumers. These brands include; Direct Line, Churchill and Privilege. It also offers insurance services for third party brands through its Partnerships division. In the commercial sector, its NIG and Direct Line for Business operations provide insurance products for businesses via brokers or direct respectively.

In addition to insurance services, Direct Line Group continues to provide support and reassurance to millions of UK motorists through its Green Flag breakdown recovery service and TRACKER stolen vehicle recovery and telematics business.

END NOTES

[1] The incidence of drugs and alcohol in road accident fatalities, Transport Research Laboratory, 2000

[2] Direct Line Report on Safe Driving 2009 – 2011 PART SIX Young drivers, Brake and Direct Line, 2011

[3] Cannabis intoxication and fatal road crashes in France: population based case-control study, French National Institute for Transport and Safety Research, 2005

[4] See Brake's fact page on drug driving