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Virtual reality deters young people from driving dangerously in Cumbria

An innovative and first-of-its-kind project in Cumbria provides young people with the first-person point of view of a car accident through virtual reality (VR) headsets to deter them from driving dangerously on our roads.

Deputy Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner (DPFCC) Mike Johnson funded the headsets through a successful bid to the Home Office’s Safer Streets Fund.  The headsets and funding will be used to reduce anti-social driving (ASD) in the Penrith area following the town being identified as a hotspot.

The DPFCC visited Ullswater College in Penrith to see the VR headsets in action as the college’s sixth form students received the safer driving presentation from Cumbria Fire and Rescue Service (CFRS).

CFRS delivers the DriveFit training at local schools and out in public areas where anti-social driving has been reported. The headsets place the wearer in the front seat of a car experiencing a traffic collision and the results from a first-person point of view as emergency services work to rescue those in the car.

Speaking on the visit, DPFCC Mike Johnson, said: “The virtual reality headsets and accompanying video is a really useful tool to show young drivers first-hand the potential outcome of driving dangerously.

“The video is quite graphic and really drives home the reality of how emotional it can be to be involved in a serious accident.

“The intention isn’t to scare our young drivers but they do need to understand the reality and consequences of anti-social driving.

“ASD is a priority in Cumbria and prevention really is key to reducing road deaths and injuries in the county. We want to provide all our drivers with the knowledge to keep themselves as safe as possible.

“This project really is the first of its kind in Cumbria so I’m pleased that I have been able to fund it through the Safer Streets Funding.”

Dean Readman, Cumbria Fire and Rescue Service Watch Manager, said: “Nationally 1 in 11 new drivers are involved in a road related incident, so providing education at this early point in their driving career is vital in preventing our young Cumbrian drivers contributing to this statistic.

“By delivering the DriveFit package in combination with the new virtual reality experiences, the aim is to empower upcoming and new young drivers with the knowledge, skills, and a better decision-making capability while driving.

“This preventative education is one of the steps which will assist towards achieving the Cumbria Road Safety Partnerships shared goal of Cumbria Vision Zero 2040 which will aim to half serious injuries on our roads by 2030, and for zero fatalities on our roads by 2040.”

Inspector Jack Stabler, Cumbria Constabulary’s Roads Policing Unit, said: “The use of the VR headsets in such road safety training sessions act as an effective learning tool.

“Engaging with young drivers about how to operate vehicles safely is crucial as we sadly know only too well the fatal consequences that can happen when road collisions occur.

“The vast majority of road collisions are avoidable. Our officers are on the roads every day working to reduce the number of serious and fatal road traffic collisions by targeting dangerous driving.

“By providing young people, who are just about to embark on driving or are early into driving, with effective education on how to stay safe on our county’s roads can lead to lives being saved.

“We are also targeting anti-social use of vehicles as part of our wider efforts to keep people safe.”



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