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23 November 2023 | Charities, Community, & CSR | Comment | Article by Deborah Sleightholme

Tragedy on our roads | A personal story

It’s Road Safety Week, and we’re working closely with our charity partner Brake to support its latest campaign; “Let’s talk about speed!”.

Did you know that five people die on UK roads every day? Speed is one of the five most common causes of serious injuries and deaths on our roads – grimly termed the ‘fatal five’. The four others are careless driving, drink and drug driving, not wearing a seatbelt and using a mobile phone.

Every day five families have a heart-breaking, life-changing knock at the door and feel the crippling pain of losing a loved one…sadly that happened to our very own Partner and Head of Strategic Relationships, Deborah Sleightholme.

Here she generously shares her story…

Thirty-three years ago our grandad was killed by a speeding driver.

Deb's Grandad and Nannan; Abraham "Abe" and Winifred Broadbent
Deb’s Grandad and Nannan; Abraham “Abe” and Winifred Broadbent

Grandad was a pedestrian crossing the road. The driver was “only” going 43mph in a 30mph zone overtaking a stationary bus, so they wouldn’t prosecute. Still a life lost, a dad, a grandad, a brother, an uncle, a cousin taken away too soon, a family devastated.

Turning off life support. Discussing organ donation. Planning and attending a funeral. Selling a home because our Nannan was too unwell to look after herself and had to relocate to live with our Aunty in a different Yorkshire town. Attending an inquest.

None of these were things our family imagined having to contend with.

Tragedy on our roads can strike any one of us at any time. We should have more respect for the fact we drive powerful and fast machines that are capable of causing so much harm – death and life changing injuries – both to us and others.

Most of us understand that using a mobile phone at the wheel or driving whilst under the influence of drugs or alcohol is bad and that there are laws in place around that for good reason. Speed is however perceived differently;

“It’s only a few miles over, it doesn’t make a difference.”

“Speed cameras are only there to bring in revenue and punish people who haven’t really done anything wrong.”

The reality is speed limits are there for a reason and are a maximum guidance not a minimum. We all have a responsibility to drive safely and within those limits. We might not be able to control what others do on our roads but we can decide how we conduct ourselves.

We have to keep pushing, have to keep educating on the dangers and sadly have to keep sharing horrendous stories of what has happened to others to try and make our roads a safer place for all.

I became a personal injury lawyer to enable me to better support people after life changing incidents and give them options and choices for the future. Through that work, I have come across some incredible organisations who work in the collision prevention and post-crash support space.

In 2002, I was privileged to begin working with Brake, the road safety charity, inputting into some of the very first police family liaison courses about the importance of signposting families for specialist legal advice and support, something I am passionate about as I know the difference it makes. I have been on the volunteer Board of Trustees for 15 years, and Chair for 13 years, a role I am very proud of, working with fabulous colleagues. I’m lucky to also work closely with Brake and other road safety charities through my role at Hugh James, where we’re strong advocates for road safety.

During Road Safety Week please take the opportunity to find out more about the incredible work the charities working in this space do, the resources they offer and how you might be able to make a difference going forward.

Author bio

Deborah Sleightholme


Working alongside fellow partners in the Individual Services Division, Deborah Sleightholme’s role involves developing and leading on regional and national business development strategies, building strong and valuable relationships with professionals and charities working with seriously injured and bereaved people, and understanding and showcasing the expertise of the different individual lawyers and specialist teams at the firm.

Disclaimer: The information on the Hugh James website is for general information only and reflects the position at the date of publication. It does not constitute legal advice and should not be treated as such. If you would like to ensure the commentary reflects current legislation, case law or best practice, please contact the blog author.


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