WEYMOUTH will get a multi-million pound road safety centre, the first of its kind in the UK, in a bid to slash the number of fatal car accidents in Dorset.
In Saturday’s Echo, we revealed how motorists are still risking their lives with distracted driving.
Last year there were more than 1,200 casualties in accidents on Dorset’s roads.
Of those, 28 people were killed and 326 were seriously injured.
Now, two charities are joining forces to create a ‘mini village’ aimed at getting the county’s accident rate down.
As reported in the Echo, Weymouth’s Community Safety Centre and LV Streetwise, which is based in Bournemouth, have merged to create Safewise.
Part of the new partnership’s aim is to create an interactive road safety centre at the Radipole Lane centre – the first of its kind in the country.
It will feature a train station and level crossing, a bus stop, shops and roadside furniture – all in a bid to wake Dorset drivers up to the dangers of bad driving.
Chief executive of Safewise Alison Shelton said: “With the wealth of statistics available both locally and nationally it is a fact that many of the behaviours that cause road incidents are predictable and therefore preventable. The development of this life-sized outdoor road safety centre will help to deliver the sustainable changes in behaviour needed to make our roads safer.
“The layout will allow young drivers, motorcyclists, older drivers and pedestrians the ability to learn on a life-size road layout including buildings – either painted on hoardings or constructed from real brick, roadside furniture, a train at a station complete with track and a level crossing, pedestrian crossing and hazards.
“For example, a demonstration area for extrications – fire engines with cutting equipment rescuing people from cars – to enhance learning points on behalf of all partners; and a training environment for new motorcyclists and young drivers in rural areas.”
It is estimated that a fatal accident takes £1.8m from the economy and a serious accident costs £200,000. Project leaders say the cost of building the safety centre is ‘no cost at all’ in comparison.
The plan was first unveiled for the royal visit to the community safety centre earlier this month.
Dorset Fire and Rescue Service and the Dorset Police and Crime Commissioner have funded the initial groundworks which will take place this summer, costing around £180,000.
So far Community Speed Watch groups in Dorset have checked 53,000 cars and written to more than 12,000 people about illegal behaviour such as mobile phone use and not wearing a seatbelt at the wheel.
PCC Martyn Underhill said: “Dorset gets 15m visitors a year so a lot of people driving erratically on our roads don’t come from within the county.
“So it’s very difficult to influence their driving behaviours.
“A serious accident in which someone is killed costs £1m.
“That’s without taking into affect the carnage has on the family and all those other factors.
“Roadwise is going to be an excellent resource for tackling behaviours that increase the risk of accidents on our roads.”
NETWORK Rail is hoping to provide a small rail line, foot crossing and road crossing for Roadwise.
Two of Dorset’s level crossings – Poole and Wool – need a high level of protection due to the outcome of a risk assessment rating for level crossings in the UK.
Chris Denham of Network Rail said: “Safety is a priority for Network Rail, not just for people who travel by train but also people work on the railway and have to cross it.
“Level crossings are our area of highest risk and therefore anything we can do to improve safety at them will have a big impact on improving safety across the network.
“While we are continually making technical improvements to level crossings, the only truly safe crossing is one that is closed. Hence, we are spending £96m over the next five years to close 500 of them, on top of the 800 we have already shut.
“Inevitably there will still be crossings that will remain open and therefore we still have to focus on helping people to make the right decision when faced with crossing a railway.
“Trains are quiet and travel faster than road traffic, and they also cannot stop quickly.
“Therefore we rely on the public to pay attention to the warnings that exist, from lights to barriers and even simple stop, look and listen to signs.
“Educating young people is crucial and we hope those lessons will stay with them in later life and give them the knowledge of how to stay safe.”
The centre will get a state-of-the-art driving simulator, thanks to a funding boost.
The Roadwise project has been awarded £10,000 by the Big Lottery Fund. Across the South West, 104 projects are today celebrating a share of £838,048 from the Big Lottery Fund.
Dharmendra Kanani, Big Lottery Fund director for England, said: “Our Awards for All programme helps people and communities in need across the country and it's great to see the creative ways projects like those in the South West are using the grants announced today to make a positive difference in their local area.
“Awards for All funding gives projects small grants ranging from £300 to £10,000 to help people address the issues, needs and aspirations in their local area.”
Edcuating young people
CENTRE manager Vicky Thomas said the aim is to educate young people before they become drivers so they will take the safety messages with them when they do get behind the wheel.
“We don’t have a legal requirement to teach road safety but we want to do all we can to protect people as they go about their daily lives,” she said.
“By making it fun and interactive, hopefully they will go away remembering those safety messages.”
Project leaders are currently looking to secure more funding to complete the project.
One idea is to have local businesses sponsor certain parts of the site.
For example, said Vicky, a local hairdresser, could have a hairdressing shop front on one of the fake shops that will be built.