Uckfield firefighter’s view on aftermath of road collisions

The effects of Road Traffic Collisions (RTC) are far reaching and affect many people in different ways.


Ian Ritchie, watch manager at Uckfield Fire Station.

With recent reports again highlighting the high number of RTCs on Wealden’s roads (see the article Concern about deaths on Wealden roads), Watch Manager Ian Ritchie from Uckfield Fire Station offers a view from those who deal with the aftermath.

Wealden – the fifth worst district nationally

Ian writes: While national figures for RTCs suggests a reduction in those referred to as Killed or Seriously Injured (KSI), Wealden has bucked the trend and has the highest number of KSI incidents in East Sussex and is ranked as the fifth worst district nationally for these incidents involving young drivers.

Uckfield crews see more than their fair share of serious RTCs as they cover fast stretches of the A22, A26 and A272 all of which have seen numerous incidents for many years.

More roads

Wealden has 80% more roads than any other district in the county and therefore a higher number of incidents may be expected.

With the exception of the Hailsham and Polegate bypasses, all of Wealden’s ‘A’ class roads are single carriageway with a 60mph speed limit for much of their length through the district.

A complex network of ‘B’ and ‘C’ class roads interlink these main routes many of which form short cuts or ‘rat runs’. All of these single carriageway roads require a high level of driver concentration and driving ability to negotiate safely and avoid collision.

High accident risk within ten miles of home

While local residents may be aware of certain high risk areas, there is a large transient population who may not. However, statistics show that drivers are at higher risk of having an RTC within ten miles of their home indicating that familiarity may not necessarily enhance safety.

Add pedestrians, cyclists, motorcyclists, large goods vehicles and animals into the equation on rural roads and the potential for disaster is all too evident.

Vehicle safety has improved immeasurably over recent years through design and development of vehicle technology and materials. However, to purchase a car on the basis of a high NCAP – New Car Assessment Programme – safety rating does not preclude the driver from being involved in a collision. That, unfortunately is still down to, in the vast majority of cases, some form of human error.

The Fire and Rescue Service has a statutory requirement to undertake rescues from road traffic collisions and as a result the equipment carried to deal with such incidents has vastly improved.

Immense pressures

In years gone by there were a limited number of specialist rescue vehicles which each covered a large area of the County. The pressures on these two person crews to perform in difficult and often challenging circumstances were immense.

Today, every firefighter in East Sussex is trained to deal with RTCs and their competence is re-assessed every two years.

More lives saved at road traffic collisions than fires

All 24 fire stations carry dedicated hydraulic rescue equipment and a range of other tools to deal with road rescue incidents allowing for faster intervention and extrication of casualties. Firefighters save far more lives at road traffic collisions than they do from fires and are justifiably proud of their work in this area.

Traumatic sights

However, while we can all train to cut cars up in a safe and controlled environment, there is little we can do to prepare individuals for the traumatic sights that may present themselves in the real world once casualties are involved.

There is a job to be done and all of the emergency services at the scene will deal with it at the time and focus their efforts on saving the lives of the casualties.

The effect on the health and welfare of emergency service personnel is the concern of individuals, colleagues and their organisation after the event.

The cumulative effect of the associated trauma can have a bearing upon future performance and affects individuals differently.

While the easy option is to simply say “Well it’s just part of the job”, East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service has systems and procedures in place to support its staff and minimise or manage the effect of ‘critical incidents’.

These are offered in a group format or on an individual basis following every potential ‘traumatic’ incident and it is down to each individual to decide whether or not they accept the offer.

Let’s not forget:

The Paramedics who are dealing with these scenarios day in day out with little, if any, rest between calls. Fire crews will work closely with them to ensure the safe release of a casualty but the Paramedic then has the job of keeping them alive on the long journey to hospital.

The doctors, nurses and medical staff who often appear to work miracles to ensure that a patient recovers.

The Police who witness the scene, investigate the cause and have the unenviable task of breaking bad news to relatives.

As highlighted by recent tragic incidents, it is the families, friends and loved ones who are left to rebuild their lives following a devastating loss or nurse a victim with life changing injuries.

The ever-increasing number of vehicles on our roads increases the chances of an ‘interaction’ with other road users.

Efforts to raise awareness and to try and educate in conjunction with the Safer Wealden Partnership and the Sussex Safer Roads partnership are ongoing. The outcomes are down to you the road user be you on foot, horseback, two wheels, four wheels or more.

Simple rules

Please take care out there and follow a few simple rules:

  • Maintain your vehicle.
  • Reduce your speed.
  • Allow sufficient time for your journey.
  • Concentrate on your surroundings.
  • Never drink and drive.
  • Never use drugs and drive.
  • Never use your mobile phone and drive.
  • Never use headphones and drive.

A plea from the Wealden safer roads group: Everybody leads busy lives, all of us are chasing deadlines! Don’t be tempted to use social media whilst driving, put the phone down, turn tablets off, watch the road and concentrate! Don’t become the next statistic!

The following link provides road safety information from East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service which is just one of numerous partner agencies working hard to keep you safe: ESFRS Road Safety

See also:

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