The CVIP Safer People Programme - Improving commercial vehicle safety through behaviour change

Summary:

  • This virtual reality (VR) App developed as part of the CVIP Safer People programme represents the innovative use of technology to raise awareness of HGV blindspots.

  • A great example of co-production, the App was conceived and developed by TRL, the CVIP team at Highways England and Invert Reality (a specialist interactive training software firm).

  • The App is evidence based, using data analysis to highlight those manoeuvres which represent the main causes of HGV collisions as the basis for the App scenarios.

  • To ensure its relevance and validity, the App has been extensively trialled with HGV drivers through an iterative user centred design process.

  • Feedback from the public and industry alike is demonstrating its value to raise awareness of this safety issue.

  • Free to download from both Android and Apple App stores to maximise availability.

  • A two dimensional (2D) version also available, which does not require VR goggles, increasing its accessibility.

The App has already been recognised and adopted by key organisations in the industry as an awareness raising tool to inform learner and novice drivers of the collision risks associated with HGVs.

Aims and objectives:

Safety is at the core of Highways England’s Health and Safety Business Plan. The Commercial Vehicle Incident Prevention Programme (CVIP) forms part of their corporate aim to achieve “a 20% reduction in the number of KSI casualties caused by commercial vehicle related incidents by 2020”[1]. The principal objectives of the ‘Safer People’ tranche of the programme include:

  • Gaining a better understanding of road user knowledge and attitudes towards HGVs

  • Identifying opportunities to promote enhanced driver training using VR technology             

Achievement:

Collaborating with the Highways England CVIP team and the commercial vehicle industry, TRL explored the feasibility of developing and using a VR App to raise awareness of the risk of blind spots relating to large vehicles. VR technology was considered most appropriate because:

  • It represents an innovative way to raise awareness

  • The immersive experience provides an ideal medium to highlight risky behaviours and environments

  • It provides more memorable impact compared to traditional approaches.

The five different scenarios in the App are based on behaviours that are high risk in HGV collisions (e.g., changing lanes, merging). Invert Reality undertook the technical development, a company experienced in safety critical training software. TRL extensively trialled the App with HGV drivers, to provide a high degree of confidence in its validity and relevance.

A safety card was developed alongside the App, to explain these risk behaviours and provides QR codes to enable easy download. Both were successfully launched at the Commercial Vehicle show in April 2018 to some acclaim. The App and the safety card have proven to be popular at events including Highways UK and TRL’s Academy Symposium in November 2018.

As well as supporting UK drivers, the App can be used by overseas HGV drivers to assist with adjusting to UK roads, particularly relating to the increased blind spot areas for left-hand drive vehicles. HGV drivers who were involved in the development of the App reported that the materials could be used as part of new driver training, supporting them by raising awareness of large vehicle blind spots in a safe, off-road environment.

The feedback received through our early engagement highlighted the benefits that these materials would bring to the wider driving community too. By placing the user in the perspective of a HGV driver the App is a valuable tool in supporting young and novice car drivers to become more aware of blind spots and develop a better understanding of the differences between vehicles.

The next stage of the project will develop further safety cards and additional VR scenarios targeting young and novice drivers, with the support of key driving agencies, including the DIA and Drivinghub[2]. This will extend the contribution of the VR App in the longer term to improved safety and behaviour change.

Evaluation:

A key evaluation method is the number of VR App downloads which demonstrates the objective of ‘the adoption of virtual reality technology for raising awareness of HGV blind spot risks’. The number of downloads have totalled 375 since the launch of the App back in April of this year.

In order to seek feedback on the use of the VR App, it was made available for trialling during the 2018 Commercial Vehicle show. All those who took part were asked to provide feedback through the use of self-reported questionnaires. A total of 175 responses gave us an insight into public opinion about the App. Overall 94% of respondents reported ‘agreeing’ or ‘strongly agreeing’ that the App would achieve its safety objectives. 96% reported being ‘satisfied’ or ‘very satisfied’ when asked about their overall experience of the App, saying that it was a ‘simple but very effective’ tool[3]. These results represent a strong vindication of the HGV blindspots VR App achieving the objective of ‘raising awareness of HGV blindspots’. This will inevitably lead to reducing the risk of collisions involving commercial vehicles.

Engagement and collaboration:

A user centred design[4] approach was used to ensure the accuracy of the App scenarios. A two round iterative process, engaged a total of 12 drivers[5] in group discussions to ensure the accuracy of the road environment, cab design, and other road user behaviour. It was also critical to check that the scenarios achieved their aims and that the tasks and instructions were easy to understand by users.

Engaging with traffic officers through focus group discussions; and interviewing operators and road users helped us understand current practices, attitudes and behaviours surrounding commercial vehicles. Findings from this engagement highlighted the importance of targeting other road users, particularly young and novice drivers who have less experience of driving around HGVs or on motorways. This demographic is now the key target audience for the materials currently being developed in Year 2.

To ensure that future materials are relevant to our target audience (young drivers) TRL and the CVIP Team have been engaging directly with the Driving Instructors Association (DIA) to ensure relevance to driving on high speed roads. This co-production, of both the second safety card and the additional App scenarios, is essential to develop materials that will resonate with this demographic. In addition, these materials will be promoted by the DIA and become a central part of the learner training for motorway driving (as part of the Driving Hub website). This collaboration and engagement will ensure the App will continue to have relevance and contribute to reducing incidents involving commercial vehicles long into the future.

Get involved:

Download the App for either Apple or Android - it runs off any smartphone or tablet as a 2D interactive app, or you can run it as a 3D VR experience using Google Cardboard VR headset.

There are two Safety Cards to accompany the App:

1. Advice for HGV drivers

2. Advice for car drivers around HGVs

 

[1] Action 46 in the Highways England Health and Safety Five Year Plan

[2] The Driving Hub website provides information to support learners and newly qualified drivers when preparing to drive on motorways and other high speed roads

[3] Further details about the survey results are available in the appendices.

[4] User centre design is an iterative process in which designers focus on users and their needs in each stage of the design.

[5] This included drivers of left hand drive vehicles as these have been found in the data analysis to be over-represented in collisions during manoeuvres such as ‘lane change to the right’.

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