Lesson 4: Cause and effect

Investigating the causes and effects of a road incident involving a young driver.

Learning objectives

For students to:

  • understand how some attitudes and behaviour can cause incidents
  • understand the wide-ranging impacts of incidents
  • develop empathy.



Links to PSHE - 1.2, 1.3, 1.4, 2.2, 4d, 4e


1 hour

Students explore the online interactive activity Incident scene: 14–16 (Ryan, Chloe, Dom and Tia). The scene shows the aftermath of the incident and does not show graphic details of injury. The incident involved four teenagers in a car. The driver loses control and crashes into trees. One passenger is killed. The other two passengers and the driver survive.

As this activity focuses on a fatal collision, before using this activity with your class, you should familiarise yourself with its content and check whether any students in your class have been involved in a serious road incident, or whether a member of their family or a close friend has been involved in one. If this is the case, you may wish to:

  • prepare them before using this activity in full
  • use only the first section of this activity, stopping after the discussion about possible causes, outcomes and consequences, before using the rewind and fast forward buttons
  • use an alternative Key Stage 4 activity
  • use the Key Stage 3 activity – Incident scene: Josh

Guidance on managing sensitivities can be found in the teachers' notes.


Explain to students that the lesson will focus on a collision on a rural road. Safety on this type of road is an important issue:

  • In 2009 65% of all deaths due to road incidents were on rural roads.
  • In 2006, more than 60 per cent of all deaths due to road incidents were in rural areas.
  • Those most at risk of death on rural roads are men aged 17–24.

Alternative starter: You could print out the main incident scene and hand out copies to students as they are coming in to class. Write 'Who? Where? Why? How? When?' on the board and ask students to work on their own to make predictions about what might have happened.

Incident scene - 15 minutes

  • Write the following headings on the board:
    • Causes
    • Effects on people
    • What could have been done differently
    • Timeline.

Ask students to copy into their books and complete as they explore the incident scene.

  • As a class, explore the first screen of the online interactive Incident scene: Ryan, Chloe, Dom and Tia. This shows the scene shortly after a collision has taken place. Ask students to explore the scene, and try to piece together what they think might have happened. Students will not be able to 'rewind' to explore the cause of the incident or 'fast forward' to explore the consequences until they have examined all the evidence on the first screen. In small groups, ask students to discuss what has happened and what might have caused the incident. (Students should be able to work out that there has been a serious incident on the Woodside bypass at 17.15. A car left the road and hit trees on the outside of the bend. No other vehicles were involved. The 18 year-old male driver was driving his mother's car. He had not been drinking or taking drugs and was not speeding. He had only recently passed his test. Three passengers were in the car. One of the rear seat passengers was not wearing a seat belt.)
  • Ask students to suggest the possible outcomes of the collision for the four occupants of the car. (All occupants killed, some occupants killed and some survive, occupants survive with major injuries, occupants survive with minor injuries, occupants survive unharmed, car written off, car sustained minor damage.) If students think first of more serious outcomes, encourage them to think of less serious outcomes, which would nevertheless disrupt the young people's lives. If they think of first of less serious outcomes, encourage them to think of more serious outcomes.
  • Divide students into small groups and allocate one of the outcomes to each group. Ask the group to think about the consequences of that outcome for the young people in the car, their family and their friends. (Death, grief, worry and guilt of surviving occupants, friends and family, missing activities and events, increased insurance payments for the driver, repair costs, car written off, driver no longer allowed to borrow his mother's car, driver no longer happy to drive, passengers put off driving / being in a car, time missed from school or college, parents allow young people less freedom.) Ask groups to share their ideas with the whole class.

Rewind - causes of the collision - 20 minutes

  • Ideally working in pairs or small groups, ask the students to click on 'Rewind' and investigate what was happening two months, one day, ten minutes and three minutes before the collision, and two days, two months and one year afterwards. (Students should be able to work out that Ryan and Dom picked up Chloe and Tia from a gig. The girls sat in the back of the car. All occupants put on their seat belts. The passengers were in a lively, good mood, singing and messing around. The girls kept removing their seat belt to lean through the gap between the front seats to adjust the music. Chloe replaced her seat belt, but Tia did not.)
  • Below are some notes to help with feedback and to prompt discussion.
    • How did events leading up to the incident contribute to what happened? What factors may have contributed to the incident?
      • Driver was inexperienced.
      • Even though the driver was within the speed limit, he was driving at an inappropriate speed for the conditions of the road, as the bend was sharper than he expected.
      • Passengers were distracting the driver.
    • Did they do anything right?
      • Dom answered the mobile phone call intended for the Ryan, so driver was not on the phone.
      • All started out with their seat belts on.
    • How could each person have helped to prevent the incident? Suggest some positive actions they could have taken to minimise the risk of being harmed.
      • Ryan could have stopped the car and asked the passengers to stop messing about.
      • Ryan could have driven slower, at a speed appropriate for the conditions of the road and his own experience (even though he was within the speed limit).
      • The passengers could have asked the driver to slow down.
      • Dom should have been behaving more calmly - not distracting Ryan or teasing the girls about their choice of music while Ryan was trying to concentrate.
      • Chloe and Tia should not have leaned through between the two front seats to adjust the music, which was distracting for Ryan.
      • They could all have made sure they kept their seat belts on at all times.
    • How likely would students be to take these actions if they found themselves in a similar situation?
  • Ask groups to share their ideas with the class.

Fast forward - consequences of the collision - 20 minutes

  • Again working in pairs or small groups, ask the students to click on 'Fast forward' and investigate what was happening two days after the collision, two months after and one year after. (Students should be able to work out that Tia died in the collision, and that her family members are devastated. In different ways Ryan, Dom and Chloe are struggling to come to terms with the collision and the loss of Tia, and move on with their lives in the way that they had planned.)
    • What effect the incident has had on people like the young people involved?
      • All three are struggling with feelings of guilt, and miss Tia - especially Chloe.
      • Chloe missed her exams and has to catch up.
      • Ryan and Chloe have split up.
      • Ryan can't afford to drive now, as his insurance costs have gone up after the collision.
      • Ryan isn't looking forward to his gap year or university anymore.
      • Dom has failed his exams.
    • What effect it has had on Tia's family?
      • Tia's family is devastated.
      • Her parents have missed a lot of work.
      • They are involved in a campaign to encourage more young people to wear seat belts.
      • Her sister has missed lots of school and lost interest in all the things she used to do. She gets really panicked when she's in the car.
  • Ask groups to share their ideas with the class.

Plenary - 5 minutes

  • Ask students to suggest positive actions that they can take to keep themselves safer as passengers. (Be aware that the way they behave can affect the driver's concentration, be ready to speak up if they feel that the driver is driving too fast - even if he or she isn't speeding, always wear a seat belt.)
  • It is important to keep the risk of being involved in an incident such as this in perspective. In 2009, there were 1,930 fatal crashes in which one person died and 100 where there were two or more fatalities.
  • However, many more people are involved in less serious collisions which can still have a negative impact on your life (refer back to discussion from the first section of the lesson).
  • Tell students that while chance will play a factor in whether or not you are involved in a collision, and how serious it is, the actions they have just listed will go a long way towards keeping them safer from all levels of harm.

Extension activity

See Lesson 1: Cause and effect - lasting consequences in the English and Drama teachers' area for writing and drama extension ideas. Supporting role cards (PDF 480KB) - new window are provided.