Last night on television I watched the first part of a two-part drama on BBC Three called ‘The Crash’.
Although it is obviously a drama, the film reflects incidents like those of Will Paton and William Sheppard, two 18 year-olds who died after their car ploughed into a field off the A34 in Cheshire on Boxing Day in 2010 and Jonathan Scott and pal Robert Tepper, both 17, and Jonathan’s girlfriend, aged 16.who died in South Yorkshire as their car was trying to overtake.
Both sad incidents involving young people who died in cars driven by other young people, and the drama does not dwell too much on the actual incident itself, rather on how people deal with, and how lives are changed by, such a devastating car crash, examining the human cost through the eyes of the participants, without viewers thinking they were simply reckless.
As Executive Producer Dominic Barlow says: “In an era where your first car has almost become a rite of passage for young men and women, this is a drama with a mission to inform. Using drama this way can be a powerful tool but we found creating such a sensitive production for TV is not an easy task.”
That, I can imagine was a difficult task for all concerned; from researchers and commissioners to writers and producers.
First of all it would be an important task for the researchers to choose which real life events that the story would be based on – and they had a lot to choose from. According to Department of Transport Reported Road Casualties in Great Britain 2011 Annual Report, 20% of all KSI (killed or seriously injured) casualties in 2011 – a grand total of 4,894 – were aged between 17 and 24. That works out roughly as one KSI every two hours of every day.
Sadly, such events are prolific. Consider these statistics: ‘KSI (casualties in reported accidents involving young car drivers (17-24) accounted for 20 per cent of all KSI casualties in 2011 (4,894).’ (from The: 2011 Annual Report pages 21-22) - That’s one KSI every two hours of every day of the year and 5 17-25 year-olds every 2 days!
Obviously there are many prejudicial reasons for these ‘young’ accidents. And we are talking boy racers, alcohol, drugs, peer pressure, etc. But the production team on ‘The Crash’ tried to veer away from the sensationalism side of it and tried to concentrate on the main reason for the accidents: inexperience.
Factual Producer, Lucy King, not only had to look at all the real-life incidents that were finally chosen, all of which were extremely deeply moving stories, but she also had to interview many families who had lost their children and then to persuade them to allow the story to be used in a drama on television.
The writer, Terry Cafolla never met the families, and worked exclusively from the tape recordings that Lucy put together from her interviews, and according to Dominic Barlow, “managed to capture the everyday lives of ordinary young people. Through a series of time jumps in the drama, he compares and contrasts life before and after, witnessing the real human cost.”
And, having watched the first episode, repeated four more times this week on BBC Three, he certainly has.
The cast contains some faces you may possibly already know. Sacha Parkinson was in Coronation Street as Sophie Webster’s girlfriend, Georgia Henshaw in Waterloo Road and Lily Loveless in Skins, and these are just three of the terrific young actors taking part – and a fine job they do too, reflecting the many effects on everyone involved, directly and indirectly.
Personally I can’t wait to see the next and final episode, and I would encourage you to watch the drama too – if only to confront your own prejudices and opinions about young drivers.
I’ll leave the last words to Executive Producer Dominic Barlow. “I wanted to create a film that felt observational in style, making it feel as real and engaging as possible for the BBC3 audience. Most importantly of all I didn't want it to be judgmental. The aim is for the viewer to form their own opinion. The result is a harrowing story with characters that feel familiar, and with a contemporary soundtrack and style, the joy, the horror and the trauma feel all too real.
For me the heroes of this film are the families who allowed us to use their stories. For these families the effects of a single moment in time will last forever. Makes you think doesn't it?”