The Western Gazette Dual It! petition has smashed through the 2,000 signature mark in just a few weeks. As the campaign reaches its first major milestone, reporter Claire Smyth speaks to a hospital consultant about the harrowing consequences of road crashes on the A303. Dr Adrian Harris talks frankly about the emotions of dealing with horrifically injured victims, including those whose lives, tragically, cannot be saved...
As a consultant at Yeovil District Hospital’s accident and emergency department, Dr Adrian Harris is one of the first people to treat victims of road crashes.
As a major trauma unit, Yeovil is usually the first port of call for people who need medical attention after a crash.
During 26 years as a doctor, he has treated thousands of people and knows too well of the horror which is suddenly thrust into the lives of the families of road smash victims who are seriously injured or killed.
Mr Harris said: “I would be lying if I said I’ve never felt emotional in a trauma room but it’s what you’re trained for.
“It’s what I do for a living. It’s no different to the paramedic or the fireman at the scene.
“It’s something you train for. It’s something you adapt to.
“You must never remove the humanity but you can’t let the humanity prevent you from doing your job.
“I can think of a husband dying alongside his wife as a consequence of a road traffic collision.
“I was looking after one and a colleague was looking after another. That was extremely difficult for everyone who was involved. It was highly emotional.”
When the hospital is alerted to people requiring medical attention after a road crash, a specialist team is assembled in Accident and Emergency ready to meet the ambulance bringing casualties from the scene.
The team could be faced with patients suffering a whole range of injuries, and in some cases patients cannot be saved.
But Mr Harris said there were patterns of injuries associated with road crashes.
He said: “Sometimes we see dead people.
“Without a shadow of doubt, the most catastrophic injury short of death is head injury. With severe and serious head injuries people can be left hugely disabled for life.
“We do what’s necessary to save the patient’s life or preserve their limbs.
“It is a bit intimidating when you first do it because you are not used to it but it’s a long time since I’ve felt these emotions.
“From the outset you know what your responsibility will be and you fulfil that role, and as you become more experienced you take on greater responsibility.”
Mr Harris has joined the Western Gazette’s call for something to be done to stop more lives being lost.
He said: “There’s no doubt that if you dual a road, it will be safer. As my primary responsibility is safety, I would like to see that.
“I’m aware there are competing interests – these are never as simple as they seem – but in terms of preserving life, dualling the A303 would make it safer without a doubt.”
Mr Harris said that while minor roads could prove treacherous to motorists, it is more realistic to achieve safety improvements on major roads such as the Ilminster bypass.
He said: “We know that country roads are very dangerous, particularly narrow roads.
“We also know fast A-roads with three lanes are significantly more dangerous than a dual carriageway,” he said.
“We can’t do anything about our hundreds of thousands of miles of country roads, but we can do something about our fast A-roads.”
He said 80 per cent of major trauma victims coming into Yeovil hospital and similar hospitals will be related to road accidents.
And of these, many will suffer life-changing or life-limiting injuries.
Many of these patients will have already experienced the drama of being cut free from their vehicle by firefighters. Some will not survive through the night.
This is the harsh reality Mr Harris and his team of doctors, nurses and hospital staff live with every week.
Mr Harris said: “Injury patterns changed since seatbelts were introduced. We used to see a lot of facial injuries before then because people would go through their windscreen.
“The severity of injury and the frequency of injury has fallen within my career. I think that is down to changes in road safety and changes in car safety.
“So traffic management and vehicle design can make a difference.”
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