Northumbria Police traffic officer shines light on devastating consequences of drink and drug driving

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A Motor Patrols sergeant tasked with investigating fatal collisions on Northumberland roads has shone a light on the devastating human consequences of drink and drug driving.

Sergeant Dave Roberts, one of Northumbria Police’s experienced lead investigators, has seen it all as a police officer – and that experience is crucial when he has the unenviable task of informing families that their loved ones have died or been injured on the region’s roads.

After standing at eight post mortems in 2022 alone, the responsibility sits heavy on the shoulders of lead investigators, who are superbly supported by a team of specially-trained family liaison officers.

But it never gets any easier.

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“To watch somebody’s world fall apart – it gets harder every time."“To watch somebody’s world fall apart – it gets harder every time."
“To watch somebody’s world fall apart – it gets harder every time."

Sgt Roberts, in his 30th year as a police officer, said: “Whenever a fatal or serious collision happens, I always make a promise to the person who has died or been injured. I will uncover the truth of what’s happened to the very best of my ability.

“I will forever remember every single fatality that I’ve dealt with – by name, by location. I can be driving around in my own car and remember a collision that has happened here, or a specific detail that has happened there. You live with them all and remember them in distinct detail.

“To watch somebody’s world fall apart – it gets harder every time. To see the sparkle of life disappear from someone’s eyes, it’s tough.

“There is always a cause behind every collision. Always – there’s never not. Whether it’s somebody being reckless around speed, having drank alcohol or taken drugs, or having been distracted.

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Sergeant Dave Roberts.Sergeant Dave Roberts.
Sergeant Dave Roberts.

“Sometimes it can be carelessness as oppose to intentionally dangerous, whether it’s braking too late when driving in ice and snow, not being aware of the conditions, or it can also be victim error.

“Very rarely do you come across a collision that isn’t avoidable. There’s always an element of if somebody had done something different, it wouldn’t have happened.

“Sadly with a lot of collisions we deal with, there is a long list of avoidable circumstances that have led to injury or death.

“For example, somebody might have consumed alcohol or drugs and then used their mobile phone whilst also exceeding the speed limit and driven poorly – which have all contributed to a collision where somebody has lost their life.

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“It's really hard. To tell somebody that a loved one has died is without doubt the hardest thing to do, and we have to do it far too often.

“Then when you’ve got to go back to the family, once the circumstances become clearer, and tell them that their loved one died as a result of the potential involvement of alcohol, or drugs, or speed, or using their mobile phone – it makes a horrendous situation 10 times worse.”

Since November 20, Northumbria Police has been supporting a drink and drug drive campaign led by Road Safety GB NE aimed at promoting road safety throughout the World Cup and festive period.

More than 100 suspected drink drivers have so far been arrested in Northumbria’s force area over the last five weeks – with 60 detained in the first 12 days alone.