Businesses are being urged to improve their occupational road risk management following the opening of the UK’s first interactive Road Safety Experience Centre.
The complex has been opened by Kent Fire and Rescue Service and, while it is predominantly aimed at 14 to 25 year olds, it is hoped that employers will use the facility.
One of the first corporate events to be held at the centre will be a summer breakfast briefing, targeted at local small and medium-sized businesses.
It will mark the start of a new occupational road risk management initiative aimed at helping Highways England achieve at least a 40% reduction in the number of people killed and seriously injured on the roads by the end of 2020.
The Highways England Driving for Work Initiative, which involves fire and rescue services across the country and a number of other partners, will be delivered nationally by the team behind the Driving for Better Business campaign.
Led by RoadSafe, it aids the Department for Transport’s ambition to support and promote good practice in safer fleet management and occupational road safety.
Reflecting a national trend, Kent Fire and Rescue Service attends more road traffic accidents than house fires.
It believes fire officers have a key role to play in improving road safety, thus reducing the toll of death and injury.
The Service’s road safety and safeguarding manager Alexa Kersting-Woods said: “We have been involved in delivering road safety education in schools for a number of years.
“Opening the centre will allow us to expand the work that we do.
“It will provide an all-round experience with interactive learning zones providing thought-provoking insights around risks and responsibilities, to help young people to develop the essential skills they need to make informed decisions as a driver or passenger.”
Viewed as a hub for road safety, the initial target audience is schools, colleges and youth groups but, with no upper age limit, Kersting-Woods said: “We are looking to work with companies to support their road safety strategies.”
About a quarter of road crashes involve someone driving for work, according to Department for Transport figures.
“The ultimate aim of the Road Safety Experience is to create a visitor centre specifically focused on activities that will contribute, alongside key multi-agency campaigns, to a reduction in the disproportionately high number of young people killed and seriously injured on the roads,” said Kersting-Woods.
Particular employer targets could include businesses that employ many young people, such as call centres and pizza delivery firms, but Kersting-Woods added: “Most of the Service’s work with employers is supporting them to run safe businesses, and that includes road safety.
“We don’t have any legal powers in terms of road safety so employers tend to engage with officers’ when they visit and inspect premises.”
The Road Safety Experience Centre, on the same site as the new Rochester Fire Station, is a purpose-built facility aimed at delivering road safety education in a fun, interactive style. The experience combines film, practical demonstrations and technology.
The aim is to encourage visitors to look at the potential consequences of a road accident from all perspectives – for themselves, their passengers, other drivers and their families – and by learning from the experience of others, improve their safety and give them the skills they need to make better informed decisions when behind the wheel.
Kersting-Woods said: “There is plenty in the centre for corporate drivers to benefit from, such as hazard identification and understanding issues around drink-driving.
“It is a visitor centre supporting behavioural change, not by preaching, but by building on individuals’ existing road safety awareness and knowledge.”
Although the centre has been built and is being run by Kent Fire and Rescue Service, Kersting-Woods said employers wishing to use the centre could be located outside the county.