Drink-drive collision 'changed our lives in seconds'

By Iolo Cheung
BBC Wales News

  • Published
Angela Williams
Image caption,
Angela Williams has had to learn to write with her left hand since the accident

A family from Pembrokeshire who are still feeling the effects of a drink-drive collision two years ago have pleaded for people to listen to warnings as the lockdown eases.

Had Emyr Williams not used his police training to avoid a head-on collision on that fateful day, he says, "someone would have been killed".

He is still living with the effects of injuries to his head and back, while his wife Angela has had to learn to write with her left hand following her own injuries.

The warning comes as figures show an increase in the number of arrests in Wales for drink-drive and drug-drive offences, despite months of travel restrictions.

Image caption,
Emyr Williams says he still feels guilt over the injuries suffered by Angela in the collision

In May 2018, Emyr Williams was driving home with his wife Angela and daughter Megan near Haverfordwest when they were involved in a collision with a drink driver.

"I remember seeing the Audi pull out of the car park in front of us," he said.

"I tried to move our car out of the way, because if I hadn't done that I think somebody would have been killed.

"I think back now to the police training I had back in 1999, and I'm not sure why, but what I learnt there is I think what saved us all."

'There's no getting better'

After checking that Angela and Megan were not seriously hurt, they were both escorted to the nearby pub to await medical attention while Emyr stayed with the other driver.

"I remember someone coming out of the pub and coming up to me when he saw that the police cars had arrived - 'I think someone better have a breathalyzer'," said Emyr.

"He wasn't talking about me, but the other driver.

"They breathalyzed me because they had to, and then tested the other guy, and he blew over."

Emyr, Angela and Megan were taken to Withybush Hospital to be checked over, with the extent of their injuries still unclear.

"I was feeling OK, in shock. My main concern was Megan, but thankfully she was fine.

"Ange had hurt her hand and chest, but things looked OK... I thought that in a couple of weeks we'd be back to where we were."

Image caption,
Angela said that without the quick thinking of her husband, the collision could well have been fatal

Although Megan escaped unhurt, it soon became apparent that the injuries to Emyr and Angela - who both work for Dyfed-Powys Police - were not short-lived.

"I was still suffering from headaches, migraines... I was lying on the bedroom floor hoping everything would stop spinning," says Emyr. "That still happens.

"I had problems with my hands, shoulder, back, tinnitus - I could go on.

"Angela has Complex regional pain syndrome type 2, and there's no recovering from that. She can't use her right hand, as she is in pain every day.

"The worst thing I think as a family is that no one can see the injuries, so if they can't see it they think that nothing's wrong with us."

'I can't forgive myself'

The other driver in the collision was found to be one-and-a-half times over the limit, and was given a 15-month ban from driving and a fine.

That ban has now expired, but Emyr admits to feeling "angry" that the effect on his own family is still being felt.

"The other driver's been punished, the law has done what it's supposed to do," he said.

"But as a person, it still hurts what he did. It can destroy lives on both sides of the incident."

Image caption,
Luckily Megan escaped from the crash without any injuries

Emyr admits he still feels "guilty every day" for the injuries Angela suffered, but his wife insists that he has nothing to blame himself for.

"If anything he saved all of us that night, because if he hadn't acted the way he did, I don't think any of us would be here to tell the tale," Angela said.

For her the feeling of frustration remains however, especially with the pandemic having amplified some of her limitations due to the requirement for her to shield.

She urges people to think carefully as they venture out of lockdown and drive to newly-reopened pubs and restaurants.

"You really don't know how that one [drink] can affect you. Please, please don't, it's absolutely not worth it."

Image source, Press Association
Image caption,
Despite lockdown travel restrictions, more people were arrested for drink and drug-related driving offences in Wales

Despite lockdown, two of Wales' four police forces recorded an increase in the number of drink-drive arrests between March and July this year compared to the same period last year.

Gwent Police arrested 223 people for drink driving between the end of March - when lockdown started - and 31 July, a rise of 9%. South Wales Police also recorded a similar increase.

However, Dyfed-Powys saw a drop of 27%, with North Wales seeing a fall of 25%

Drug-driving arrests were up in all four force areas, with a rise of 141% in Gwent, 133% in Dyfed-Powys, 59% in North Wales and almost 50% in South Wales.