Fire chiefs warn youngsters to prepare for a road shock
The fire service has unveiled a new weapon in its battle to reduce the number of young people killed on the roads – a car that simulates the impact of a crash.
Leicestershire Fire Service has taken the wraps off the VF4 (the virtual fatal4) – a souped-up Ford Focus designed to grab the attention of young drivers and passengers.
The black and orange car is a road legal head-turner, but is also a state-of-the-art virtual experience which simulates a drive and the moment of impact of a crash.
Watch manager Paul Speight, of the road safety team, said the idea was to shock the youngsters.
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He said: "We make no apologies for this.
"The idea is to grab their attention then give them a huge dose of reality. Basically, we put them in a car and it crashes."
The car will tour all schools in the county and year 11 pupils – aged 15 and 16 – will get in and watch a film of teenagers going for a car journey that ends in disaster.
Film-maker Ben Jacobson worked with Leicester drama group Urban Young Actors to devise the script and scenario for the in-car film.
Mr Speight said: "Occupants will feel the impact of a road traffic collision, hear the sounds of the crash, the deathly silence and the screams for help."
The VF4 is a £7,000 Ford Focus ST with modifications worth £15,000 to turn it into a crash simulator complete with cameras, screens and hydraulic levers.
Mr Speight said: "The completely remodelled car will be the flagship of a wider education package. We will visit schools, young offenders' institutions, and community projects to ensure that the next generation of drivers do not succumb to the 'fatal four'.
"The fatal four are the main causes of driving deaths among 17 to 25 year olds: driving while under the influence of drink and drugs, not wearing your seatbelt, using your mobile phone and speeding."
Students on a 10-week Prince's Trust job skills course mentored by the fire service went for a virtual test drive in the VF4 at its launch.
Danielle Bamford, 24, of Eyres Monsell, Leicester, said: "The crash was incredibly realistic.
"It felt as if you were in there on that journey. It made me think."
Dylan Curtis, 17, of Leicester Forest East, said: "It was pretty scary. When the film showed the firefighters struggling to cut the teenagers out, I thought they were trying to help us."
Georgia Smith, 19, of Braunstone, Leicester, said: "The car is stunning, just the sort I would love to own one day.
"The film will make lots of people think. It made me realise just how dangerous cars can be."
The VF4 was unveiled at the soon-to-be-opened Birstall fire station on Friday.