Around 3000 Hartpury students took a break from their studies as the college, alongside the Gloucestershire Road Safety Partnership (GRSP) and the Gloucestershire Police and Crime Commissioner, Martin Surl, ran an entire day dedicated to helping students to stay safe on our roads and encouraging respect for all road users.
As part of the ‘Drive for Life – Safe and Social Driving’ day, the students took part in a wide range of activities and educational workshops.
They witnessed a hard-hitting road traffic collision (RTC) scene and heard from the emergency services about the actions they have to take and the impact on them. They also experienced the ‘ripple effect’ as a Family Liaison Officer broke the news to a victim’s family, as well as hearing the heartbreaking stories of two mothers who have lost a child in an RTC.
Tom Martin, 17, who is studying a BTEC Level 3 Diploma in Horse Management, got behind the wheel of a go-kart and experienced wearing ‘beer goggles’ that mimic the effects of alcohol on driving performance.
He said: "I had no idea how bad it would be driving in the goggles. It's really weird, you feel dizzy and disorientated and it really affects your judgement. I thought I had stopped in a completely different place to where I had.
"I'm learning to drive at the moment and what we're learning today has really made me think. If you make the wrong choices, it's not just your life you are affecting, you could kill someone. It was a real eye-opener hearing about what the emergency services have to go through too; I don't think many people really consider the impact on them."
All students were able to ‘get behind the wheel’ on a driving simulator and experience different braking distances. They were also asked to identify 10 defects on the 'Killucar', which aims to recreate some of the problems that can make a second-hand car a danger to road users.
Emma Gray, 16, from Bream, who is studying a BTEC Level 2 Diploma in Outdoor Adventure, was shocked after sitting on a seatbelt sled, where students were able to feel the impact of hitting a vehicle at seven miles per hour.
She said: "Even though I knew what was coming, it was still a shock how big an impact you feel when you are going so slow. It really gives you a sense of how scary it would be to crash at a higher speed.
"I've learned a huge amount today that I'll have in my mind when I start my driving lessons. The activities and the lectures have really opened my eyes to the impact that bad driving decisions can have on other road users."
Students also learned about how different types of music and other distractions can affect their driving. After completing each activity, they received a stamp with a full card earning them entry into a prize draw.
Hartpury Principal, Russell Marchant, said: “It's hugely rewarding to hear from our students how much they got out of the day and to know that they have learned an incredibly potent message that could save lives.
"While the interactive activities are great fun, you can also see the surprise on students' faces as they are confronted by the reality of what can happen if you don't drive responsibly and within the law.
"This is the second ‘Drive for Life’ day we have held and it's a great way to boost our students’ skills, knowledge and awareness, helping them to stay safe."
Gloucestershire’s Police and Crime Commissioner, Martin Surl, said: “Last year, there was the lowest number of road-related accidents and injuries on Gloucestershire roads since records began. While that’s something to celebrate, complacency isn’t an option.
“Raising road safety awareness and encouraging safe and social driving is something I care deeply about; that’s why I made it one of the priorities of my police and crime plan.
"We know that young drivers on rural roads are the most likely to be involved in an RTC and I'm delighted that this 'Drive for Life' day enabled thousands of Hartpury students to learn lessons that will help make our roads a safer place.”
A Police Inspector talked to students about ‘Consequences of the Law’ and a ‘Fail to Look’ workshop focused on identifying potential hazards and raising awareness of other road users, particularly cyclists and motorcyclists. The GRSP delivered a workshop around the psychology of driving while the Fire Service talked to students about the impact of a collision on the Emergency Services.
A number of outside organisations supported the day, including road safety charity ‘BRAKE’, the Institute of Advanced Motoring, the AA and the British Horse Society.
Gloucestershire County Council Cabinet member for road safety, Will Windsor Clive, said: “Many of the young people that experienced this 'Drive for Life' day are either very new drivers, learners or about to start lessons. We know that the earlier we can deliver these road safety messages to young drivers, the more chance we have of them staying safe and learning respect for all road users."