A virtual reality initiative, developed by Cork County Council, which simulates what it is like to be a passenger in a fatal crash has won a major European award. The Council’s virtual reality ‘Your Life - Your Choice’ education programme has received gold at the Excellence in Road Safety Awards 2021 in Brussels.
Cork County Council began using VR headsets in late 2018 as a way of connecting with young drivers. The VR experience immerses the user in a 360-degree simulation of a fatal crash from the perspective of a front seat passenger.
The pilot programme involved 1,200 students from County Cork and was spearheaded by Cork County Council Road Safety Officer Caroline Casey, with assistance from West Cork Community Gardai and Leicestershire Fire and Rescue. The headsets were sponsored by Aviva Driving School and the programme has since been rolled out across the entire country, reaching over 10,000 students to date.
The Excellence in Road Safety Awards recognises contributions of the European Road Safety Charter's community of members towards the common goal of improved road safety across Europe. Cork County Council was one of thirteen finalists chosen by a panel of experts. Applications were submitted by schools, associations, enterprises, local authorities and research centres across Europe.
The Mayor of the County of Cork, Cllr. Gillian Coughlan welcomed the award, saying: “It is fantastic to see Cork County Council being recognised at a European level. This programme is a perfect example of how technology is helping to change people’s behaviour and make our roads safer. It allows drivers to experience a road traffic accident in a safe way. We have to be innovative, work together and learn from each other if we are to continue to reduce the number of fatalities on our roads.”
Chief Executive of Cork County Council, Tim Lucey added, “The Virtual Reality programme is targeted at younger drivers, aged 16 to 25 who are among the most vulnerable road users. We know that passenger fatalities are highest in this age group. The VR headsets put the young person in the passenger seat so they can experience the reality of a serious crash. The most important factor for us is that 88% of participants said they would change their attitude and behaviour after taking part in this programme. They began thinking about speeding, the use of mobile phones, wearing a seatbelt and driver distraction.”
Cork County Council was named the overall winner in the Local/Public Authority category. It was up against the Regional Directorate of Education, Madeira, and Transport Infrastructure Ireland. Finalists shortlisted in the other categories were from Spain, Greece, Poland, The Netherlands, Romania and France.
The applications were evaluated against six criteria: impact, measurability, transferability, innovative approach, visibility and continuity. The 13 shortlisted initiatives were focused on delivering road safety through specific measurable actions in their areas of responsibility.