Elaine Corner sustained serious injuries after being knocked off her motorbike by an at-work driver. Here she shares her story and explains why fleet managers need to treat road safety seriously.
Nobody goes out thinking an accident is going to happen to them. Everyone thinks their vehicle and its load are safe. They feel they can still concentrate on driving while fiddling with the radio, using the phone or recovering from one too many beers the night before.
But the reality is there are consequences to not concentrating when you are driving, to not having a safe vehicle, to not being in full control of that vehicle.
In March 2011 I was involved in a collision caused by a fleet vehicle. I was knocked off my motorbike when a van pulled out on to the main road.
There was good visibility at the junction. If the driver had looked, he would have seen me and he would have seen my mate on his motorbike behind me.
But he didn’t look because he was distracted. He was using his mobile phone. It was hands-free, but he was still distracted.
He pulled out and hit me on the side. I went about 30 yards down the road and ended up face down on the grass verge. I was about six feet away from my bike.
My mate was lucky. He was far enough behind to avoid the van and ring 999. The driver of the van was unhurt. He was just wandering around saying ‘huh, I didn’t see them’.
It seemed like forever when I was waiting for the ambulance to turn up. It was actually about 10 minutes. It was the longest 10 minutes of my life.
I was in lots of pain from my foot and my back. I’d done first aid training, I knew not to move in case of injuries I didn’t know about.
When the paramedics turned up, they cut my kit off. You feel very vulnerable lying at the side of the road without your clothes on. It was at the edge of Salisbury Plain, the Army training area. There was the noise of army helicopters flying around. And then it sounded like one was landing.
When the policeman confirmed that it was the air ambulance, I realised maybe I was a little more seriously injured than I first thought.
And then the paramedics filled me full of drugs and the next thing I knew I woke up the next morning in intensive care with my husband at my bedside.
That’s when I found out what my injuries were. I had tendon damage to my right ankle. I had fractured ribs. I had two fractured vertebrae. I had a fractured sacrum, that’s the bit where your spine goes to your pelvis. I had internal bleeding in that area.
My foot had also been amputated. The X-ray showed they weren’t going to be able to save my foot. It had been crushed between the van and my bike.
I spent the next eight weeks in hospital, and with that came the stress that caused my husband, visiting me every day, with my family travelling from Yorkshire to be with me.
I had five further operations which resulted in my foot being amputated to the level it is now. I had 15 months of rehabilitation, learning how to walk again, learning how to live with my injuries.
I had another operation just when I thought I was getting my life back, so I had to spend another month in a wheelchair.
I’m still in constant pain with my lower back. I have pain and weakness in my right ankle. I get phantom limb pain. It can feel like someone is smashing into my foot with a sledgehammer, or giving me an electric shock.
It is sufficient to sit me bolt upright in bed and stop me from sleeping.
I have days when my stump is too sore to be able to put my leg on, so I’m back in the wheelchair.
Regardless of what people say, the world isn’t accessible nowadays. It’s very hard work getting round in a wheelchair, so I tend to just stay at home.
Because of my injuries, I was medically discharged from the Army. And because of the disrupted sleep and the constant pain, I can’t work full-time now, so I can’t earn as much as I used to.
I had to move away from my friends because of access problems to my old house. I had to sell my car. For eight months I was taking too many prescription drugs to be in a fit state to drive and I had to rely on other people to take me everywhere.
It felt like I was 16 again.
I’m a Duke of Edinburgh Award leader and have been for the past 12 years. I can’t drive the minibus anymore. I can’t go hill walking with the young people like I used to, so it’s put extra pressure on the other leaders.
But I’m lucky. I’m still here. I can still ride a motorbike. I have a suitable car now. I can still be with family and friends.
Think about those who aren’t so lucky. Those who are killed, paralysed, have serious brain injuries because they were hit by someone and it wasn’t their fault. Somebody who wasn’t concentrating. Somebody who wasn’t in full control of their vehicle.
Think about your policies and your training. Are they sufficient to stop things like this happening to someone else? To some other family?
The guy who hit me got six points and a £165 fine for careless driving. He also lost his job. I have a lifetime of pain, of disability. That’s the reality of road safety.
Elaine Corner served in the Army for more than 25 years before being medically discharged following a crash with an at-work driver who was using their mobile phone. She is a volunteer with Wiltshire Safe Drive, Stay Alive – a roadshow based around powerful personal testimonies designed to make the audience aware of the suffering caused by road traffic collisions. She is passionate about supporting wounded service personnel and veterans in Wiltshire to undertake volunteering as part of their recovery process.