Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service

NIFRS uses virtual reality technology to promote rural road safety this ‘Road Safety Week’

This year Northern Ireland Fire & Rescue Service responded to over 600 road traffic collisions and rescued over 440 people who were trapped in their vehicles.

NIFRS released these figures as part of ‘Road Safety Week’ which runs from the 18-24 November 2019. NIFRS works in partnership with The Department for Infrastructure; PSNI and Northern Ireland Ambulance Service on ‘Road Safety Week.’

This year the ‘Road Safety Week’ focus is on ‘Rural Roads’ – how the community can keep themselves, and others, safe on rural roads.

Crashes on rural roads are a major road safety problem and last year accounted for 53% of deaths and serious injuries on our roads. Approximately two thirds of all fatal collisions that occurred last year happened on rural roads.

There were 113 young people (aged between 16 and 24) killed or seriously injured in 2018 on rural roads.

Alan Walmsley, NIFRS Assistant Chief Fire & Rescue Officer, explains:

“This age group is consistently, year on year, over represented in the number of those killed or seriously injured on our roads. This is why, this ‘Road Safety Week’ and beyond, our focus will be to continue to work in collaboration with our partners to educate younger drivers aged 16-24, through our ‘Your Choice’ virtual reality road safety education programme.

“The ‘Your Choice’ 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 programme, developed by NIFRS, is delivered by members of the emergency services to schools, colleges, youth groups and sporting groups to allow us to reach as many 16-24 year olds as possible

“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.

“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.

“In the last year alone Firefighters attended over 600 road traffic collisions rescuing 440 people trapped in vehicles.  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 – 24 year old age groups, as a consequence of irresponsible road user behaviour.

“We hope 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.”

NIFRS Community Safety Ambassador, Pat Jennings, added:

“I’m delighted to be working with NIFRS as Community Safety Ambassador to help promote Road Safety Week and raise awareness of how people can keep themselves safe on the roads.

“We must do all we can to share the road to zero – one life lost is one too many.”

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