Jeremy Williamson, e-merge's CEO, tells his story and how he came to lead a dynamic team in road behavioural change.
"Road Safety'' was something that hadn't really crossed my mind when I was learning to drive. There were clear goals in the young driver journey. Get some lessons (cheapest available), have as few as possible (compete with friends as to who had the least) and cajole your instructor to put you in for a test date ASAP.
You then had to find a cheap car, some cheap insurance and get mobile. For me this meant that 4 lessons and 4 weeks after turning 17, I was sitting my first test. I failed and was devastated. I immediately put in for my next test and a few weeks later I'd passed! All in all, this was 10 weeks after my 17th birthday. I was delighted and was suddenly driving to school and very popular.
The A-level results day fast approached and someone had the idea of going away to 'celebrate' the outcomes. This seemed like a brilliant idea and just what was needed, after all we were all heading off into the big wide world of jobs, apprenticeships and University (for those who hadn't quite had enough of education).
For me, I already had a job offer on the table and a tough decision to make in terms of our celebratory trip as they wanted an immediate start. After much soul searching I decided not to go on the trip, thinking there would be plenty more occasions when I might be able to better afford some fun with the lads.
One week later, on the 31st August, 3 out of the 4 of my friends that went away on that 'celebration' were dead, killed in a Road Traffic Collision. The driver and I had known each other since day 1 - literally. Our mums had been in the next bed to each other at the maternity ward and we had gone through school together ever since. He had always made the most of the fact that he was a few hours older and he was born on 6th September, whilst I waited until the 7th. I can't describe what it was like to attend the funerals of 3 of your best friends, on consecutive days, including their own and your birthday.
I wanted a career that was exciting, physically and mentally demanding and that would allow me to give something back. I had passed selection for the Fire Service and was pleased to finally be doing a job that had everything I wanted.
One Easter Sunday I was just starting a shift when I took a phone call. The caller I.D. showed that it was from my parents house and then a Police officer introduced themselves. I immediately thought that they must have had a break in and then the voice began to say ' can you come to your parents house, I am afraid that we have some news about your brother...he's been involved in an accident...' I don't really remember much else, I just knew that I had to get to my parents' house. My brother's car had struck a tree on a rural road and he had been found by a jogger. He had suffered trauma to the chest from not wearing a seatbelt and had died on the way to hospital.
A few months on I decided that if I could save one person from going through what I had, or I could cause 1 person to change their attitude towards driving, then I should do everything possible to do so.
After a couple of promotions I found that I could have some impact on RTC and Road Safety education. As part of my role I went into schools and delivered some initiatives that were around at the time. I was asked to consider a 12 month secondment to the Council's Road Safety Team as part of a partnership initiative. This was eye opening and was a brilliant opportunity to see what else was out there in terms of Road Safety education initiatives, Charities, funding and opportunities...
I wrote my own presentations and had some humbling feedback. I had parents of youngsters killed in RTC's attending some of the sessions and lending their support. Knowing that the secondment contract with the Council was nearing an end, I still wanted to continue educating young drivers and passengers so I set up a social enterprise in anticipation of this.
I had some great local success stories working with schools and colleges, but I couldn't get around the fact that there was only 1 of me and I could only be in 1 place at at time. Scalability was the issue. I also knew that despite there being some brilliant road safety initiatives in every corner of the country, the road safety arena was pretty fragmented. I wanted to access as many people as possible, with consistent messages and wanted results to be measurable. As I saw it there was only 1 way to achieve this and that was to make road safety commercially appealing. Telematics was starting to gain some traction in the UK and all the ingredients were there.