Northern Ireland Fire & Rescue Service (NIFRS) has launched a new virtual reality road safety education programme, the first of its kind in Northern Ireland, to help reduce death and serious injuries.
Entitled ‘Your Choice’, the programme targets young drivers and passengers aged 16 – 24 using virtual reality technology to place the young person into a hard hitting road safety scenario via specially designed goggles. As a front seat passenger in the virtual world, the young person will be part of a crash scene and will experience the dramatic sights and sounds of emergency services arriving on the scene and the resulting rescue and removal of the casualties.
The programme, developed by NIFRS, is delivered by members of the emergency services and was launched at the South Eastern Regional College in Lisburn (SERC). Young people in the College had the opportunity to try out the new technology highlighting the dangers on our roads and the consequences of poor decision making and choices.
Alan Walmsley, Assistant Chief Fire & Rescue Officer & Director of Community Protection explains:
“This technology allows every user wearing a headset to experience the stark reality of being trapped in a vehicle and to observe up close the work of the emergency services at the scene of road traffic collision.
“It’s uncompromisingly direct and honest. We are reminding young people that they have a choice to decide what kind of road user they and their passengers will be. Those decisions are vital to their safety and the safety of other road users.
“Sadly 16 – 24 year olds, and in particular young men, continue to be over represented in the statistics for those killed or seriously injured * on our roads. We will be targeting and prioritising the ‘Your Choice’ programme towards young people in geographical areas which continue to have high levels of road traffic collisions.
“The ‘Your Choice’ programme is one element of our new Road Safety Strategy which outlines how we, as a key road safety partner in Northern Ireland, will continue to work in partnership with others to reduce death and injury on our roads.
“We have adapted a targeted, evidence-based approach in the delivery of our road safety interventions through this strategy to build upon the significant progress with all our road safety activities in recent years.
“In the last year alone Firefighters attended 790 road traffic collisions rescuing 536 people trapped in vehicles. We attend approximately 60% of all road traffic collisions that occur in Northern Ireland each year. Unfortunately, Firefighters and other members of the emergency services witness all too often the carnage on our roads and the lives completely destroyed, in particular among the 16 – 24 year old age groups, as a consequence of irresponsible road user behaviour.
“Through ‘Your Choice’ and our new road safety strategy we are embracing new technology and new ways of delivering our education programmes, in partnership with others, to help keep people safer on our roads and reduce the number of road traffic collisions attended by the emergency services. If you work with young people and think they would benefit from, the new ‘Your Choice’ programme please email YourChoice@nifrs.org
“We must do all we can to share the road to zero – one life lost is one too many.”
SERC Principal and Chief Executive Ken Webb said:
“The virtual demonstrations were extremely hard-hitting, and we hope it will hit home with our young people the consequences of poor decision making and highlight the dangers on our roads.
“The elements of the event will help to engage our students in considering the role that they have in preventing deaths and serious injuries on the roads. It’s important to raise awareness of road safety issues and it’s hoped that events such as this will encourage our young motorists to become advocates for safer driving practices. The event really hit a nerve with our students and made them think – which is what the event was all about.”