A hard-hitting presentation which drives home the devastation caused by road traffic collisions is leading to a fall in crime in Staffordshire.
"A very moving and eye opening insight into the consequences of Road Traffic Collisions. I was more emotionally affected than I expected."
Attendee of Crash Course
Crash Course is a multi-agency partnership which goes into the schools of Staffordshire and to high risk drivers, but also to some drivers committing offences - such as using hand-held mobile phones whilst driving.
The presentation is offered as an alternative to drivers who would otherwise receive a fine and penalty points on their licence. The presentation includes photographs and video taken at the scene of actual collisions.
Crash Course is delivered by Staffordshire Police collision investigators, Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service, Staffordshire Youth Service and Staffordshire Victim Support.
Recently the Transport Research Laboratory released figures which revealed more drivers are using hand-held mobile phones than before tougher penalties were introduced.
A total of 2.8% of drivers are now using hand-held mobile phones compared to 2.6% in 2006 - when fines rose to £60 and three points could be added to licences.
But through education delivered via the Crash Course initiative the attitude of offenders in Staffordshire is changing, and for the better.
Between 1 December 2008 and 30 November 2009 a total of 32,776 driving offences were committed in Staffordshire which resulted in a Fixed Penalty Ticket being issued to offenders who were not offered the Crash Course.
Of these, more than 500 people committed a further 1,052 offences in the county, giving a re-offending rate of 3.21%.
Between 14 January and 23 September 2009, 781 people were offered the Crash Course. The majority of these people had committed a mobile phone offence whilst driving. Only two people went on to re-offend in Staffordshire following the course, a rate of 0.25%.
Ch Supt Mark Bates, from Staffordshire Police, said: "The Crash Course is proving to have a positive impact on motorists, who are less likely to commit the same offence again.
By working with our partners, and through this unique education programme, we are helping to change attitudes amongst drivers.
It is extremely dangerous to use a hand-held mobile phone whilst driving and the simple message is motorists should not do it.
"Not having proper control of your vehicle because you are distracted using a phone could cause a collision which can result in life-changing serious injuries or cost your own, or someone else’s life. A phone call is just not worth this."
Ann Morris, Crash Course advisor, said: "This is without doubt the most impactive piece of work I have ever done.
"It is one thing where when people leave they can instantly make a difference. 95% of all fatal and serious collisions are caused by drivers taking a risk and if we can change driver behaviour then we can save thousands of lives. All of us who deliver diversion do it because we genuinely feel we make a difference.
"People often arrive thinking the Police should be catching real criminals and not persecuting the poor motorist but leave seeing that if they killed or seriously injured someone they to would most definitely be seen as a real criminal.
"Crash Course definitely improves Police/ Public relations and it is an opportunity for the public to understand why the police do the job they do."
Head of Risk Reduction for Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service, Ian Sloss, said: "As a fire service we attend some horrific crashes, some of which are caused by drivers using their mobile phones. Unfortunately in some of these incidents we have to cut the drivers and their passengers free from their vehicles, which can be a very traumatic experience for those involved.
"Crash Course is a hard hitting presentation that highlights the reality of what can happen and helps change the ‘it will never happen to me’ attitude that so many people have."
The following feedback has been received from people who have taken Crash Course:
• "Thank you for the opportunity to see the true consequences of what I felt was a minor offence. Tonight has definitely changed my views, I hope I never forget or lapse in the future. Thank you. The Team tonight are fantastic in what they do."
• "Very informative talk and much better than just getting three points. Should be given to general public to stop accidents instead of giving talk after the incident has happened."
• "This Crash Course should be mandatory to all new drivers so they are drilled with the consequences of driving with a mobile phone, if it had I wouldn’t be sat here now."
• "I believe that part of the problem is that people don’t think of the consequences before they do something. The more people who see, or attend, these courses the better."
• "My brother was killed riding pillion passenger on a motorbike twenty seven years ago; all this time I hated the driver who also died. The driver of the motorbike did not concentrate at a crucial time and collided head on with a truck. After all this time I realise that after attending this course, I was acting no better than the guy who killed my brother."
• "This has helped me realise that small actions can have devastating consequences."
• "I am not a bad driver, I don’t drink and drive and I am not a boy racer. I got caught using my mobile phone whilst driving on the motorway doing fifty mile an hour. I came on this course and it really shocked me, so I won’t use my phone or read a text whilst driving. Thank you."
• "A very moving and eye opening insight into the consequences of Road Traffic Collisions. I was more emotionally affected than I expected. I would pay for my children to sit a course before embarking on a driving career. Should it be part of a driving test? Thank you."
• "I arrived tonight trying to justify in my head why I was here but after listening to the speakers it made me realise there was no justification. This has changed the way I think totally. Thank you."
• "I thought before I came it would be a waste of time, but now I am glad I came. It has definitely opened my eyes."
• "The stark reality has shaken me; it was certainly worth the drive from Brighton."
• "The course is very effective and it’s better to teach people rather than penalise them. Thank you."
• "The course was very well delivered and the points and observations made have had a major effect on this driver’s attitude."