This post will look into the fundamental importance of road safety and how 360 VR has been used as a new innovative solution to educate people about driving safely.
Last year there were 176,500 road accident casualties, of all severities, according to the Department for Transport. Furthermore, according to Statista, the USA has seen an increase in the number of traffic-related fatalities since 2014. In 2014 in the USA there were 1.08 traffic-related fatalities per 100 million VMT (vehicle metres travelled), which significantly increased to 1.18 traffic-related fatalities per 100 million VMT.
"It's not enough to simply pass a driving test, passively watch a road safety video or read an unengaging leaflet. People just won't listen!"
The primary reason why there are such high numbers of road accidents is because people, particularly those of a younger age, are not being educated enough about the consequences of reckless driving. It's not enough to simply pass a driving test, passively watch a road safety video or read an unengaging leaflet. People just won't listen! Learning from mistakes is something which you can't afford to do on the road, because, let's face it, one mistake might be one mistake too far - you only have one life!
How can we educate drivers properly then? Virtual reality of course! Already this year companies such as NIFRS, Ford, BMW, and Highways England have implemented VR into their road safety education campaigns with a matter of high importance.
"There were 828 people involved in road crash accidents in Northern Ireland who suffered serious injuries, with 63 of these people losing their lives"
A common technique to educate people about road safety in VR is to position the person as the subject of a road accident. This may sound quite extreme, however, many VR road safety programmes have seen a positive impact on drivers' behaviour after having been immersed in the VR experience. This is because the subject is actively made to experience a real-life scenario from a first-person view.
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For example, a research study by the BBC in 2017 highlighted that there were 828 people involved in road crash accidents in Northern Ireland who suffered serious injuries, with 63 of these people losing their lives. In response to this harsh reality, the Northern Ireland Fire & Rescue Service (NIFRS) launched a new VR road safety education programme, targeted towards 16-24 year olds in Northern Ireland, that puts the subject in the driver's seat. During the VR experience, subjects see events unfold before and after a car accident. Shocking scenes of emergency services arriving at the scene and the removal of casualties is enough to engrain the vital message of road safety into people's heads.
View individual reactions to the NIFRS's VR road safety experience in the video below:
Ford have also recently implemented new virtual reality technology, WheelSwap, which puts the subject into both the cyclist's and driver's perspective, exposing a variety of common hazards while cycling or driving. The road safety VR experience is designed to increase empathy between cyclists and motorists, and therefore influence urban traffic behaviour for the better. The initial research, carried out with a group of 1,200 users, demonstrated that 90% would commit to acting more safely on the roads than before using WheelSwap, while a significant 60% highlighted that they have actually adjusted their behaviour as a result of viewing the footage.
View part of the WheelSwap VR experience below:
Highways England also recognises the great potential of VR for changing people's attitudes towards safe driving. In this case, Highways England are harnessing the power of VR to raise commercial drivers' awareness of their blind spots in order to reduce the risk of serious accidents. The VR experience can even be viewed in a simple Google Cardboard headset before drivers hit the road. This immersion in a virtual environment should make them fully aware of how to adjust their mirrors correctly, identify blind spots properly, join the motorway from a slip road, overtake and fully absorb the dangers of tailgating.