New initiative uses VR headsets to give students 'most realistic experience' of road accidents

By Eddie Cassidy

Technology yesterday provided students with realistic experiences of near-death in traffic accidents in a new safety initiative to hammer home the message of danger on the roads.

Your Life – Your Choice, promoted by Cork County Council, is the first virtual reality (VR) programme of its kind in this country.

It is aimed at younger drivers who are among the most vulnerable road-users. Passenger fatalities are highest in the 16-25 age group.

County Mayor Patrick Gerard Murphy joined students from three Macroom schools — St Mary’s Secondary School, De La Salle College, and McEgan College — for the launch of the VR technology project, led by the council’s safety officer, Caroline Casey.

A wheelchair user as a result of a road accident, Mr Murphy highlighted how such technology resonates with younger drivers and makes the results of distraction very real.

“Any initiative which encourages people, particularly young people, to behave more responsibly behind the wheel is to be welcomed,” he said, praising the council for the safety awareness initiative, which is backed by Aviva Driving School and An Garda Síochána.

“It’s great to see technology being utilised for the good of our communities.”

Garda Supt Patrick Lehane said An Garda Síochána Southern Region Roads Policing was delighted to be associated with the programme.

“This technology gives the user the most realistic experience of a road traffic collision, including the shocking scenes of emergency services removing casualties from a car,” he said.

“Learning from mistakes is something you cannot afford to do on the road because, let’s face it, one mistake might be one mistake too far — you only have one life.

“This experience should ingrain the vital message of road safety into the minds of young people.”

Sarah Wymore and Nicole O’Connell, students at St Mary’s Secondary School, Macroom, after experiencing a virtual reality car crash through the Your Life – Your Choice road safety programme, promoted by Cork County Council. Pictures: Clare Keogh

Michael Bannon, head of Aviva Driving School, said Aviva had already demonstrated its commitment to teaching younger drivers to be competent and safe on the road.

“We are now delighted to be supporting the Your Life – Your Choice campaign by providing a compelling virtual reality experience to young drivers about the consequences of dangerous driving, which we believe will have a positive impact on safer driving,” he said.

The VR units simulate a serious road incident, with the viewer participating in the passenger seat of a VR car.

Viewers witness many of the dangerous behaviours and factors associated with young drivers involved in serious collisions, including mobile phone use, speed, stopping distance, distraction, and rural roads.

They also witness, from the passenger seat, the immediate aftermath of a serious incident from when first responders arrive on the scene.

Schools interested in the programme can contact Caroline.Casey@CorkCoCo.ie

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