TWO years ago, a Williton family were told their 17-year-old daughter had been killed in a car crash after her boyfriend lost control of his speeding vehicle and ploughed into a tree at the bottom of Halsway Hill on the A358 between Taunton and Minehead.
Bethany-Paige Adams’ family are now focusing their energy on educating other young drivers across Somerset not to make the same mistake. Reporter DANIEL MILLIGAN took part in one of their go-karting driver awareness courses.
THERE’S a knock at the door. It’s a police officer who says ‘I’ve got some bad news; your daughter has been killed in a road traffic collision’.
It’s a tragedy no parent wants to see unfold.
That was the moment the world stopped around Bethany-Paige Adams’ mum, Helen, dad, Mark, sister, Danielle, and brother, Liam.
Since January 7, 2012, Helen and Mark have always said they do not want another parent to have to go through the same feelings.
They launched the charity Stand Against Speed 4 Bethany to help educate other young drivers, and have teamed up with Avon and Somerset Police on their Choice and Consequence course to help deliver their heart-wrenching tale.
Helen and Mark said: “The course is about bringing young drivers of the community here to put them through their paces on the track, and hopefully they will enjoy it and learn about road safety.
“People learn more when something is fun, so we hope the message gets across.
“We want them to learn about the consequences of speeding – that’s the reason we lost our daughter.
“It still feels as though we’re stuck in a time warp – physically we’re moving on, but this is what’s keeping us going.”
In the past 12 months the family has been raising money to send youngsters on the course.
I joined family and close friends of Bethany earlier this month to take part in the classroom and go-karting exercise.
As a 24-year-old who has been driving for 2½ years I have been lucky enough not to be involved in any scrapes, bumps or anything more serious on the roads, but, as education and project officer for Avon and Somerset’s road policing unit, PC Dave Adams, explained, drivers aged 17 to 24, particularly males, are in the highest risk category for serious road collisions.
The course, at the South-West Karting Centre in Cheddar, starts with a quiz on the highway code – an exercise in which I performed horrifically with just five correct answers out of 12.
Then PC Adams talked about maintaining your vehicle, and understanding the legalities with mopeds and registration plates.
He told the group: “We don’t go out to try to catch people all the time – most people find us.
“They drive past on their phones, their registration plates are dirty or they speed past us.”
After around 30 minutes in the classroom we went out on to the track, where we were given ten minutes to enjoy ourselves and drive however we liked.
The group was split into two – the lads skidded, swerved, spun and crashed while the girls took their time and proved to be much more methodical in their approach around the track.
Afterwards, PC Adams asked everyone to assess their driving and talked about planning for potential hazards on the roads before sending everyone back out on the track to see if their driving had improved.
The second time on the track everyone drove around the course quicker, but also safer with fewer crashes and spins.
PC Adams, who has been running courses for five years, said: “We need to get people more aware of their actions on the road and go-karting is an appealing way to do this.
“It’s about driving responsibly and taking responsibility for your own actions.
“Vehicles don’t crash on their own – they only crash when someone’s behind the wheel.
“It isn’t necessarily all about road safety – it’s getting them to think about driving appropriately because even if the speed limit is 30mph it may not be appropriate to drive at that speed given the conditions or layout of the road.”
The final part of the session pulls on the heartstrings as a DVD is shown of a young girl with everything to live is severely burned and two of her friends are killed when a drink driver runs a red light and hits them.
Bethany’s older sister, Danielle Adams, 23, who has been driving for around 18 months, said the course made her think about driving more cautiously.
She said: “It’s good that Mum and Dad can do this, not just to educate young drivers, but also people who don’t drive as well.
“When they pass their test they might have more of an understanding of the consequences.”
Luke Roberts, 20, and Jade Fos-ter, 16, both of Williton, said when they pass their test they will take extra precautions.
They said: “It raises awareness and makes you think about taking more care of yourself because no-one else will.”
Another course member, Lewis Don, 21, of Carhampton, said it was a massive shock when Bethany was killed, but said the course should get the serious messages across.
He said: “People are a bit more sensible now, but this will help educate the next generation who can benefit from it.
“If only two people from the session take something away from it it will have worked because it will mean two more people don’t crash.”
After Bethany’s death, her boyfriend at the time, 18-year-old Charlie Blanford-Corp, of Minehead, admitted causing death by careless driving, and was given an 18-month driving ban and a suspended jail term.
Helen and Mark hope to extend their driving awareness sessions across the county and are hoping to bring Learn2Live, a road safety presentation, to West Somerset.
Learn2Live is a short video shown to people of a scene where a group of friends on a night out have a crash.
The emergency services arrive and one of them is taken to hospital, but they die and the family is informed.
A family member, in this case Helen, then speaks after the video to describe their personal experiences.
Helen and Mark are hoping to go into West Somerset College to give one of the presentations in the New Year and invite sixth form staff from other colleges to attend.
Helen said: “We started this because of Beth, and I don’t think there’s enough being done to educate youngsters, so this is a bit of fun, but they’re learning something at the same time.
“We probably wouldn’t have done this if it wasn’t for Bethany.”
Summing up the session, PC Adams described the four fatals’ which are the main contributory factors in deaths and serious injuries on our roads: speed; distractions; no seat belts; and driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
Bethany’s family thanks Allerford Minibus Hire for providing free transport to the course for the group.