Virtual Reality App to Teach Road Safety to Children
A virtual reality app is being developed at the University of South Wales (USW) to help teach road safety to primary school children.
USW academic Dr Catherine Purcell (Psychology), an expert in the link between perception and action at the roadside, is leading the project alongside co-investigator Dr Mike Reddy (Computing), a games design expert, after they were awarded funding from the Road Safety Trust (RST).
The funding is being used to develop a virtual reality game-based road safety education app, which will be tested for ‘proof-of-concept’ in Welsh primary schools.
Many UK schools currently implement road safety education programmes that use books and knowledge-based games to teach road safety rules to children. Although roadside behavioural training is more effective than these methods, many schools do not have the resources to take children to the roadside to learn the very practical skill of road crossing.
The aim of this project is to develop technology that will allow children to learn road-crossing skills in a safe, virtual environment, providing a cost-effective way to gain road crossing practice. If the game is found to be successful in these early trials, additional funding will be sought to develop it further, with a view to sharing it free of charge with schools across the UK. The wider roll-out to UK schools will involve implementing the game as an addition to current road safety education, rather than as a replacement.
“Preventable road traffic accidents represent the second largest cause of death and disability worldwide for children aged between 5 and 14, so the need to teach children how to safely cross the road is vital,” Dr Purcell explained. “Through previous research I have demonstrated that 'egocentric' software, such as first-person games that directly simulate immersion in an artificial world, have a greater likelihood of teaching children vital information that will help to ensure that they are safe on roads.”
Dr Reddy added: “Virtual Reality has been around for a few decades, but has only recently become good enough, and accessible at a reasonable price, for it to enter the mainstream. Like any new medium, there are no simple answers as to how to use it effectively. This project will be genuinely breaking new ground in taking the technology beyond 3D video and games for entertainment, by looking at how and whether VR can be used to educate children about a very real problem.”
More than 13,500 children and young people were involved, as pedestrians, in reported road traffic accidents in the UK in 2015. This project provides a chance to use engaging simulations to enhance road safety education.
You can follow the progress of the project by following the RST Project on Facebook and Twitter (@RSTproject), or by following their development blog at https://rstproject.wordpress.com/.