Belfast Telegraph

Safety drive will target a reduction of deaths on rural roads

Pat Jennings with virtual reality technology to promote 2019 Road Safety Week
Pat Jennings with virtual reality technology to promote 2019 Road Safety Week
Lauren Harte

By Lauren Harte

The Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service (NIFRS) responded to over 600 road traffic collisions and rescued over 440 people who were trapped in their vehicles in the past 10 months.

The figures were released yesterday by NIFRS as part of National Road Safety Week 2019, which this year is focusing on how the community can keep themselves safe on rural roads.

Last year 55 people were killed and 730 seriously injured on local roads.

Crashes on rural roads are a major road safety problem and last year accounted for 53% of deaths and serious injuries.

Approximately two-thirds of all fatal collisions last year happened on rural roads.

There were 113 young people aged 16-24 killed or seriously injured in 2018 on rural roads.

As a result NIFRS is working in collaboration with the PSNI, Northern Ireland Ambulance Service and the Department for Infrastructure to educate younger drivers through their 'Your Choice' virtual reality road safety education programme.

The programme targets young drivers using virtual reality technology to place the young person into a hard-hitting road safety scenario via specially designed goggles.

The scenario is based on a crash occurring on a rural road as a result of a tractor pulling out in front of a distracted young driver.

The 'Your Choice' technology allows every user wearing a headset to experience the reality of being trapped in a vehicle.

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.

NIFRS assistant chief fire and rescue officer Alan Walmsley hopes that by educating young people through 'Your Choice,' it will help keep people safer on our roads and reduce the number of road traffic collisions attended by the emergency services.

He added: "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.

"We attend approximately 60% of fatal road traffic collisions that occur in Northern Ireland each year.

"Unfortunately, firefighters and our colleagues in other emergency services witness all too often the lives destroyed, in particular among the 16 to 24-year-old age groups, as a consequence of irresponsible road user behaviour."

NIFRS community safety ambassador Pat Jennings added: "We must do all we can to share 'the road to zero' - one life lost is one too many."

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