New weapon in the war against the biggest killer of young people: The cyber road test that stops teenage drivers making the mistake that left me paralysed for life
22:29 GMT, 29 December 2012
Like most teenagers who have just passed their driving test, Lauren Eade is keen to get behind the wheel as often as possible. So she sets off one crisp winter afternoon – and I am beside her.
There is no traffic, so she careers happily along at the speed limit of 40 miles per hour. It’s quite a pace for a country road. Within minutes, she fails to spot an approaching junction and a car pulling out . . . until it is too late. Lauren swerves, and our car plunges into a tree.
‘Wow,’ says the pretty 17-year-old, looking wide-eyed at me.
On the road: Since her accident in 2003 which paralysed her from the waist down Sophie Morgan drives a specially adapted car
Thankfully, we are not seriously injured trapped in a car, but sitting safely in a classroom. Lauren is working her way through an online module called Anatomy Of A Crash, which is part of a groundbreaking software unit called Drive iQ.
Traditional driving lessons concentrate on the technical skills needed to pass the test but have failed to evolve to prevent statistics that show 19 out of 20 road accidents are caused by poor attitude and behaviour, not vehicle-handling skills.
A recent survey by insurers ingenie concluded that almost half of young drivers admitted to feeling nervous, under prepared or scared when driving independently. Drive iQ was developed to fill the gaping void in the current learning process.
The free online platform educates a young person on the impact that their attitude and behaviour have, and provides coping strategies designed to make users better drivers.
Eager student: Sophie Morgan with student Lauren using Drive iQ during a classroom driving lesson
I am currently involved in a campaign to
make the software mandatory for all newly passed drivers – because the
virtual accident Lauren just caused was very similar to the one that
robbed me of the ability to walk.
It was 2003 and I was 18. I had just received my A-level results and was at a friend’s party. A group of us piled into a Renault Clio and sped off down the road.
Like Lauren, I was inexperienced and overly confident. The passengers around me were drunk. That is my last memory of the night. I lost control and flipped the car into a field.
As the car rolled repeatedly, my skull was fractured, my eye dislodged, my jaw and cheekbones shattered, my collarbone snapped and, last but not least, my spine broken. No one else was hurt but I was left paralysed from the chest down. I can drive again now, but only using a specially adapted car.
Risk free lesson: Users of Drive iQ can learn the real dangers of the road, whilst in front of a computer
In our Drive iQ test, Lauren had failed to recognise the dangers we were in, despite having passed the test to hold a UK licence. If the situation had been real, Lauren would have helped bolster the shocking statistic that one in five young people crashes in the first six months of driving. Driving is the biggest single killer of young people in the UK, before murder, suicide or drugs.
Neurologists credit young people’s carefree attitude to the underdevelopment of an area of the brain called the frontal lobe. This doesn’t fully mature until our early 20s, and it is only then that we are able to properly anticipate danger and assess risk. Drive iQ claims it works by accelerating frontal-lobe maturation. In 2011, there were 1,901 fatalities, 23,122 serious injuries and 180,828 minor injuries caused by young drivers in the UK.
Dr John Heyworth, immediate past-president of the College of Emergency Medicine, explains why it is now a major public health issue: ‘Every day, emergency departments throughout the UK care for victims of road crashes, often young adults with horrendous injuries.’
More than 400 schools are now registered with Drive iQ and we plan to integrate the software into the curriculum for every 16-year-old in the UK by 2014.
If I had had the opportunity to watch the simulation of a crash like mine play out on a computer screen, my life would have turned out very differently. Thankfully, for you, or your children, it’s not yet too late.
To get free and instant access to Drive iQ, visit driveiq.co.uk.