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New virtual reality ‘Vision’ van on the road in Bedfordshire

New virtual reality ‘Vision’ van on the road in Bedfordshire

Road safety education for young people is to be transformed with the launch of the new Vision Van virtual reality immersive experience.  

Bedfordshire Fire and Rescue Service’s (BFRS) new Vision Van is now on the road and will be used as part of Bedfordshire’s Road Safety Partnership’s mission to reduce road casualties by 50 per cent by 2035.

Funded jointly by the Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) and BFRS, the Vision Van is a road safety vehicle that utilises virtual reality films to engage and educate young drivers in schools and at local events.

Using dedicated hydraulic chairs inside the van it allows users to immerse themselves into a virtual reality scenario, to better understand the factors and risks that can lead to a driver being distracted or to lose concentration on the road.

Area Commander Ian Evans, Head of Prevention and Protection at BFRS, said: “We are called to far too many incidents where younger drivers have either been injured or have caused harm to others as a result of making unwise decisions behind the wheel.

“The Vision van is a great way of showing drivers how their actions can result in life-changing consequences in an innovative and fun way. Over the coming months we will be working with Bedfordshire Road Safety Partnership to get the van out into the community to fulfil our aims.”

Schools, colleges and other higher education institutions will be able to book a visit from the team that operates the Vision Van, and it will be heading out into the community to allow young people to engage with the impactful virtual experience.

PCC Festus Akinbusoye said: “In Bedfordshire in 2022 alone, emergency services attended over 300 road traffic collisions where someone was killed or seriously injured. This is why as part of the Police and Crime Plan, we have dedicated resources aimed at educating drivers, particularly young drivers, on the biggest risk factors associated with driving. Namely, using a mobile phone, speeding, drink and drug driving and not wearing a seatbelt.

“As Police and Crime Commissioner, I have met many family members of road traffic victims through the Road Victims Trust, and each meeting is a reminder to me of the need to work as a partnership in Bedfordshire to reduce road casualties.”

According to figures from road safety charity Brake, drivers aged 16-19 are a third more likely to die in a car crash than those aged 40-49, while nearly one in four 18–24-year-olds crash their vehicles within two years of passing their driving test. Young drivers are also found to be at greater risk on the roads due to inexperience and over-confidence.

Phil McCarthy, Bedfordshire Road Safety Partnership manager, added: “Having experienced the van for myself, I can testify to its effectiveness in encouraging users to think twice about their driving habits going forward.

“Being able to offer an immersive learning experience to deliver road safety education at schools and events in Bedfordshire is very exciting for the Partnership, and ties in excellently to the key objectives for education and prevention outlined in the Bedfordshire Road Safety Partnership strategy.”

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