My mother died last week. As deaths go, this was a “good one”. It came at the end of a long life, after a short illness, with her pain managed by professionals. I was able to be at her side the last few days and hold her hand as she faded away.
Those bereaved by crashes have none of this. Without any warning, their loved ones just one day do not come home. Their children, partners and parents lose decades of life, their shared future destroyed in violent and often easily avoidable circumstances.
My mother did not have her life stolen from her. She was not killed by the selfish actions of another. We did not have to fight the justice system to find out how she died, or even to get her body back. Not like the bereaved mother I spoke to just before my mother’s death. She had been told by the coroner that she should be grateful to the driver for paying for the second post-mortem, as otherwise he would not have released her daughter’s body for burial. That’s right, grateful to the man arrested for Causing (her daughter’s) Death by Dangerous Driving, a fact which the coroner would have known.
Such insensitivity is not unique to this case or to coroners. Official literature often ignores road deaths. The MOJ’s Guide to Inquests references murder and manslaughter but not road death. Likewise, the draft CPS Charging Standards for Driving Incidents refers families bereaved by law breaking drivers to the guidance for homicide families. But road deaths greatly outnumber murder and manslaughter in both inquests and criminal prosecutions. Families of road deaths deserve their own guidance, and to be mentioned in official guides.
But we enter 2013 with hope. At a meeting just before Christmas, Helen Grant, the Victims’ Minister, assured us that she was aware of how road crash victims had been ignored by the justice system and how this needed to change. The appointment of Baroness Newlove as the new Victims’ Commissioner should also help as she has previously shown empathy, understanding and outrage of the plight of road crash victims.
Even though my mother’s death was timely, and a better option than the alternatives, it was still devastating and I am overwhelmed by the sense of loss and finality. All a reminder of how unimaginable and terrible the toll is on those suddenly bereaved by road death. Families bereaved by crashes face the same loss and devastation as those bereaved by murder but without the same respect from the justice system. They deserve better.