'The crash changed my life' - Woman's warning as road deaths in Kent and Sussex reach 4 year high

  • Watch report from ITV Meridian's Kit Bradshaw

A woman from Kent who had to learn to walk again after being seriously injured in a car crash is calling on others to "do the right thing" and "not take risks" behind the wheel.

Vicky Bates from Tunbridge Wells was driving down the A21 in November 2017 when she was hit by another car - leaving her with horrific injuries.

Police said the driver, who died in the crash, was likely over the drink-drive limit at the time.

Vicky spent three months in hospital with serious injuries including a broken neck in three places, broken ribs, a punctured lung and a ruptured liver.

Investigations found the other motorist, who died in the crash, was likely over the drink-drive limit at the time. Credit: ITV Meridian

She now has a metal rod in her leg and a metal plate in her neck with two screws.

"It impacts my day to day," Vicky said.

"I can't walk as far as I used to be able to.

"My job has changed, my career path has changed - my whole thoughts on life have changed and it's something that will be with me for the rest of my life."

  • Vicky Bates told ITV Meridian the crash has had a huge impact on her life

Vicky says investigations into the crash found she had 0.8 to 1.5 seconds to react, so is comfortable driving again.

"There was nothing I could have done, even if I was the best driver in the world.

"I trust myself to drive, but I am very conscious of other people."

Figures show in 2019, 84 people were killed in road accidents in Kent and Sussex. Credit: ITV Meridian

Vicky has shared her story as new figures have revealed a rise in the number of fatal road accidents in Kent and Sussex - up 35% since 2019. 

Four years ago 84 people died on the two county's roads.

That's gone up to 115 for 2022. 

Senior police officers say the rise is down to 'poor driver behaviour' - and that they're stepping up efforts to catch those breaking the law.

  • Head of Roads Policing at Kent Police, Chief Inspector Craig West

"We are still seeing a worrying amount of drivers that are taking unnecessary risks.

"Drivers that think it's acceptable to drive a vehicle whilst impaired through alcohol or drugs.

"Drivers that think it's acceptable to drive whilst distracted on mobile phones, failing to wear seatbelts, or simply driving too fast for the conditions."

For decades the number of deaths on the roads nationally had been falling dramatically since their high point in the 1970s. That was until around 2010 when that year-on-year decline flatlined.

The Road Safety Charity, Brake, described it as a 'major catastrophe' that authorities across the country were only now waking up to.

  • Mary Williams, head of Road Safety Charity, Brake

Over the last few years, councils in Kent and in part of Sussex have adopted a strategy called 'Vision Zero' - an ambition to reduce annual road fatalities to zero.

Those strategies include more segregated cycling infrastructure, public awareness campaigns and enforcement efforts.

But despite those strategies, deaths on the roads are still rising.

And experts say despite cars being fitted with an increasing array of safety technology, in many cases it ultimately comes down to drivers - and the risks they're willing to take with their own, and other people's lives.