British Army soldiers at Aldershot Garrison have been taking part in a unique distracted driver awareness course.
Around 450 troops descended on St Omar Barracks over three days to have a go on race car simulators which actively demonstrate how much your concentration decreases on the road when undertaking another task.
The European Commission estimates that between 10% and 30% of car accidents are caused by driver distraction which includes texting, eating, drinking and using the stereo or satnav.
Using the simulator, soldiers completed a practice session to familiarise themselves with the track. They were then asked to take part in races, one while texting and another wearing goggles that simulate extreme tiredness.
Following their sessions, each soldier received an individual report that illustrated how their driving performance deteriorated and the results were surprising for many that took part including Lance Corporal Pope of 251 Signal Squadron. He said:
“When I was texting and driving, my awareness actually went down by 40% which is a huge, huge difference. I didn’t think it would affect me that much.
"I know a lot of people probably just take a cheeky cursory glance at their phone whilst they’re driving and not feel distracted at all.
"But when you’re in this hyper-tense situation when you’re racing, it really made a difference and highlighted that even if you’re just at the lights and taking a cheeky look at your phone, you’re really distracted so you’re really not concentrating on the roads.
"Then when I had the sleep goggles on my driving went down by 20%, so again it highlighted the fact that if you feel tired like I do sometimes, you really need to just pull over, take a couple of hours break, just have a refresh and then carry on with your journey.”
A pledge wall was installed in the Garrison and each participant had the opportunity to sign it, to agree that they will do their best to avoid driving distractions.
Lee Sexton is the Aldershot Garrison Health and Safety Advisor and organised this different approach to distracted driver awareness training. He said:
“What we will achieve from this is that, whilst many of us think that we are experts behind the wheel when we are distracted we often think we are still that expert with full attention and this software proves that this is not the case.”