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PSNI pumping up the volume for road safety drive

A flashy boy racer car blasting out excruciatingly loud music was the last car you would expect to see at the Balmoral Show.

But this was no ordinary boy racer car and a closer inspection revealed the long arm of the law was behind the canny stunt.

The PSNI had souped up an old car and brought it to the show in a groundbreaking approach to relaying the road safety message.

The police had lowered the suspension, installed a top-of-the-range audio system in place of the back seats and installed a Sony PlayStation 3 and TV in the boot to create the dream machine.

The plan was to get a vital road safety message across to the difficult-to-reach 17 to 24-year-old age group who are most at risk on Northern Ireland's rural roads.

Road policing superintendent Muir Clark said the car was one of a number that have been modified as part of Project Evolution.

He said that “17 to 24-year-olds are four times more likely to kill themselves or someone else on the roads than any other age group”.

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The car was due to be retired but has been souped up as a way to engage with young people who like to modify cars. A number of other cars are being brought to further education colleges so that young people can learn to modify them but also discover how this can go wrong.

“Probably the biggest single danger that young people who modify tend to face is when they change the suspension. They take out the springs, cut them down and put them back on,” he said.

“They don't fully understand how it changes the handling capability of the car they are in — if the car hits a bump in the road it is much more likely to spring off the road and over the edge.

“We've also resprayed the car and we've taken out the rear seats and installed a top-of-the-range audio system. When the music is thumping or they have friends in the car playing loud music, this can show them how it affects the concentration they are putting into driving the car.

“We have also put a TV screen and Sony PlayStation 3 into the boot. As someone plays that driving game, at some point he will crash the car on the track.

“The message we're trying to get across is that in the game when you crash the car there are no consequences. The X on the controller is the reset button.

“There is no reset button in real life – if you crash you're not going to get a second chance.”

Cathal Boylan MLA, of the Stormont Environment Committee, which has teamed up with the PSNI to deliver a road safety message, said it is vital to talk to the public for ideas for the upcoming 2010-2020 Road Safety Strategy.

“We can't straighten every corner. You need to look at other ways to prevent accidents,” he said.

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