Crash course puts young offenders in the driving seat

Fffenders taking part in the road safety course at Pegswood Community Fire Station.
Fffenders taking part in the road safety course at Pegswood Community Fire Station.

GROUPS of offenders are finding out first-hand what happens when people get trapped in their car after an accident.

Those serving community orders supervised by Northumbria Probation Trust are attending a half-day course at Pegswood Community Fire Station to learn more about road safety and the impact of road traffic collisions.

It includes a simulation exercise where volunteers experience being unable to get out of a vehicle that has been damaged in a road accident and have to be cut free by firefighters using powerful hydraulic equipment.

The course, run by Northumberland Fire and Rescue Service, also involves classroom input and exercises, DVD clips, information on drink and drug driving and a reflection on the outcomes following a road traffic collision.

Pegswood Station Manager Darren Nelson said: “Within the area served by Northumberland Fire and Rescue Service, road traffic collisions are the major cause of death and injuries.

“Young drivers have been the target for this input through schools for many years, but the 17 to 25-year-old age group is a difficult audience to attract and tend to be the age group involved in incidents of this type.

“Inter-agency work like this project with Northumbria Probation Trust provides the vital link required to influence and educate.”

Many of the participating offenders have previous convictions for driving offences and it is hoped that they will use their increased understanding to become safer road users.

One of those who has already done the course said: “It has really made me think, seeing the mess the crashed car was in and the way they had to cut you out.

“It would be pretty scary sitting there, hurt, with all that going on around you. You wouldn’t want to do that yourself.

“It’ll definitely make me slow down in future”.

The course forms part of their community service.

Up to 20 per cent of the sentenced hours can be spent on activities which support their successful rehabilitation and re-integration into society, with the remaining 80 per cent spent undertaking work projects such as gardening or graffiti removal.

Head of Community Payback for Northumbria Probation Trust Martyn Strike said: “We are really pleased to work with Northumberland Fire and Rescue Service to provide this road safety course for offenders.

“Part of the rehabilitation process for the offenders we supervise is to develop consequential thinking skills and become more responsible members of society, as well as protecting the public from harm.

“The course enables to us to do all of this.”