Dillon Lawson – Advocating for Road Safety to Honour His Brother’s Memory

Photo: Donald De La Haye Dillon Lawson holds a picture of his brother Dayne Lawson, who died in a car crash on Trafalgar Road, St. Andrew on the morning of July 27, 2011. The crash was attributed to speeding.

Story Highlights

  • Dillon Lawson learned many lessons about driving from his older brother, Dayne, long before he got a driver’s licence.
  • Dayne was one of two young men who died in a collision on Trafalgar Road in the vicinity of the British High Commission early on the morning of July 27, 2011.
  • Dillon says that driving is a big responsibility and should not to be taken lightly.

Dillon Lawson learned many lessons about driving from his older brother, Dayne, long before he got a driver’s licence.

One of those lessons is that speeding on the road kills. It was, therefore, heart-rending that Dayne lost his life at age 22 due to speed.

Dayne was one of two young men who died in a collision on Trafalgar Road in the vicinity of the British High Commission early on the morning of July 27, 2011.

The Subaru Impreza that was being driven by his best friend crashed into a wall and Dayne, who was flung from the vehicle, died on the spot.

The driver died while undergoing treatment at hospital. Dayne’s cousin, who was seated in the back, was the sole survivor. Speaking in an interview with JIS News, Dillon, who was 15 at the time of his brother’s death, says the tragedy opened his eyes to the dangers of speeding.

“To see that something like that happened to Dayne, it taught me that anything can happen to anyone at any time,” he explains.

Dillion recalls that Dayne had previously walked away from two major collisions with minor injuries and was grateful that he lived to tell the tale.

These accidents had left a lasting impression on him and he managed to convey his aversion for speed to his younger brother.

At the time of his death, Dayne had already begun to teach Dillon to drive and the impact of losing his mentor and best friend was so great on the younger Lawson that for a long time he could not bring himself to sit behind the steering wheel.

“The first time I went back to driving I was very nervous. Although I had got significant practice around the neighbourhood before my brother died. It took a while for me to get over the trepidation, but, eventually, I did,” he says.

Dillon has fond memories of his brother, whom he describes as his best friend, and bemoans the fact that he was taken from him at such a young age and in a most unfortunate manner.

He is now using his experience to appeal to his peers to cut their speed while driving and uses every opportunity to share his story. “Speeding really makes no sense. If you’re late, you’re already late. There is a place for that and it is not on the road,” he says.

“When it comes to driving on the road, I don’t see any need to speed. I think speeding is all about ego. I have seen people racing on the road and it is clear that they just want to be seen. It is showing off, but my mom taught me from a very young age that show-off brings disgrace,” he adds.

“When I meet people the topic always comes up that I lost my brother in a horrific crash. Most people remember the accident so they generally say they heard about it and it becomes a talking point,” he offers.

The university student says speeding is a problem among young people. He says that despite the installation of speed bumps on his school campus, people continue to drive fast.

“When I am talking to someone about speeding and what happened to my brother, they look at me in awe and they don’t understand how I am able to live with it now. In fact I don’t know how,” he says with a faraway look. He notes that when young men his age begin driving they are prone to showing off, especially to girls.

“They are driving and blaring music. When you are driving and your music is on full blast you can’t hear anything, so someone can be beeping at you and you don’t even hear it. You could be in an accident and you would not even know what hit you,” he points out.

Dillon says that driving is a big responsibility and should not to be taken lightly.

“You’re not supposed to take it as something fun; it’s a responsibility. If you’re driving, you are responsible for your life, your passengers and the people around, including other drivers. Their lives are in your hands, so if you’re driving fast you’re a danger to other people. It is hard to make young people realise that speeding is very dangerous until something happens to them,” he adds.

He has some advice for persons who think they cannot have a car crash.

“You cannot depend on a car. It’s a machine. You are a human. God gave us a brain, sense, reaction times and a self-preservation mechanism. You must use them. You could have a car for years and the brakes are not working optimally and you may not know until something happens. You cannot put your trust in a machine, put your trust in yourself and be very confident when you drive,” he advises.

Dillon says that talking about what happened to Dayne is not always easy, because he was such a big part of his life.

“It is very hard for me to share my experience with other people because I still have trouble with it. It happened when I was very young and I looked up to my brother. Even my own father understands how much of a father figure he was to me. He taught me everything I know – how to drive, how to play football, how to talk to girls, how to carry myself – so many things,” he says.

“He was everything to me, like my other half, and losing him was scary. It is very hard to talk about. I just want other young people in my age group to know that showing off is not worth losing your life for” he continues.

Dayne and Dillon’s mother, Joan Shervington, says she believes a more proactive approach needs to be taken to driver education in Jamaica.

“I would hope that one day, learning to drive would become a part of the school curriculum. Education has a lot to do with it. To be teaching a young person to drive, you have to teach them to drive around Jamaican public-passenger drivers, especially taxi drivers; so it is not just about maneuvering the car and observing the road code, but also driving and thinking for other drivers,” she points out.

Ms. Shervington says it is still painful to recall the night her son died five years ago.

“He did not live with me, he lived in May Pen with his father, but he was still the man of my house. He had visited the night before. I was quite happy to see him and he told me he was going out, but I didn’t know who he was going with. He kissed me on my forehead and said he would be back to stay with me for two days. It was a Tuesday evening, we parted and I watched him go down the staircase. Little did I know that it would have been the last time I would have seen my son alive,” she recalls.

She went to bed that night and was awakened by a loud sound. She sat up in the bed and a strange feeling overcame her as if something had gone wrong within her body.

She says she got up and turned off the lights that she had left on in anticipation of Dayne’s return.

“Suddenly, I got a phone call and it was a May Pen number. I figured (Dayne) was calling to say that he had gone home instead. I answered the phone with the words ‘so yuh reach down’, only to hear his father saying that something had happened,” she recalls, as a tear rolled down her cheek.

Ms. Shervington says that she went into instant shock and denial.

She explains that someone had called the senior Lawson to say that there had been an accident and that he had got the number from a phone and that the person the phone was taken from was dead.

She refused to believe that her son was dead, even when others had positively identified his body.

The mother says that the memory of that fateful night has never left her.

“The pain of a mother who loses a child never subsides,” she says, noting that her family has chosen to focus on the happy memories of a life well lived by the young man, who impacted so many in his relatively short life.

She further adds that she finds peace in knowing that Dayne served his purpose in life and that her surviving son has taken his brother’s case as his banner of advocacy for road safety.

According to Dillon, he finds peace in a special moment he had with Dayne the day before he died where they both had an opportunity to express their love for each other. He vows to continue to be an advocate for road safety among his peers.

He remains adamant that regardless of new technology and how fast modern cars can go, the bottom line is that speed kills.

He says that as long as young people are aware of that and heed the warnings, loss of life on the nation’s roads will be much less.

JIS Social