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RISK MANAGEMENT: Take a Crash Course?

Date: 15 February 2011

A new approach to driver risk management is gathering pace, with the graphic Crash Course presentation enjoying a growing reputation. Paul Barker finds out more

The presentations at the 2010 ACFO annual conference included one of the most controversial in the association's history.

Crash Course is designed to walk the viewers through every stage of an accident, from at the scene through to the hospital, mortuary and longer term, for both the victims and their families, in order to provoke behavioural change in drivers. The team of four that present the different sections come from Staffordshire fire and rescue, police collision investigation and victim support teams, and through word of mouth was initially invited to present at the south-west ACFO regional meeting. Although some admitted it was too hard-hitting for their tastes, Crash Course impressed enough to be invited to the national conference.

Crash Course originated in 2004, when it was conceived as an initiative designed for schools, to get to young people just before they reach driving age. The initial presentation was adapted from an Avon & Somerset pack aimed primarily at joyriding, and the joint police, fire, victim support and county council youth services venture began presenting in a few schools to individual classes before the council decided they wanted every school in the region to see it.


"It spread into the corporate sector by chance, it was an absolute fluke," recalls Ann Morris, who runs Crash Course. "British Nuclear Fuels were running a safety seminar and came through the police to us, and much to our astonishment they were blown away and invited us up to Cumbria, Sellafield, and then we went to places like the Atomic Weapons Establishment. It's only ever been by word of mouth."

As well as the nuclear agency side, one of the biggest corporate supporters has been Eon (see 'Behavioural change at Eon', below), which has invited the initiative back many times to present to different parts of the business and new employees. Others include Michelin, where Crash Course helped invoke a policy change for company drivers. "They asked if we would deliver to the executive board, which convinced them to support their health and safety people banning all mobile phone use in company business," says Morris. "They had such a backlash from their sales team that they invited us to go to their sales conference at The Belfrey because they were looking at whether it had affected business. Michelin became one of the Driving for Better Business champions and Crash Course got a whole section in their submission."

The initiative has even gone international, with the police looking at how to adapt the presentation for Germany, where the team have had three trips to the country's North Rhine-Westphalia region to discuss how best to tune the programme for German laws.

Despite the hard-hitting and sometimes upsetting nature of the talk, Morris says it works in terms of changing driver behaviour in a

way other methods don't always: "People say to us that we've had health and safety talks for years but this is the first time someone's made me change my behaviour, and some companies have changed their policies on things like mobile phones and seatbelts off the back of seeing our presentation."


Money, as is the case in every element of business life at the moment, is a problem. Initially a scheme fully funded from county and Stoke city council budgets, plus resources from the fire and police departments, that income has now dried up. The only way now of generating funds is through corporate work, and via working with Central Motorway Police Group, for whom, three nights a week, Crash Course present to people who have been stopped for using mobile phones or not wearing a seatbelt, and given the course rather than three points on their licence. They are still fined, and this covers the costs as well as help fund the Crash Course programme in schools and workplaces because the money is ringfenced for road safety education.

Morris readily admits that marketing the course isn't something they've been very good at, nor have they possibly charged what it's worth in order to grow and develop. "It's not become a commercial enterprise, getting the message out there is the most important thing," she maintains. "We have been all over the country. We've done the Atomic Weapons Establishment at Aldermaston, we've done Devon, Oxford. We've never turned anyone away. But we've not gone out and marketed it - it's all done by word of mouth."

The future

"We need to recruit more teams, go to other areas, but the biggest problem is payment - we've got to get income to be able to get people," says Morris.

Another line of potential expansion is to put the presentation on DVD. "How do you reach people? Not everyone can take 50 people out of the office at once," she says. "The DVD will be a training guide be aimed at small companies or those who can't get all their drivers together in the same place." It's expected to be ready this summer.

Morris said the team is also looking at expanding by including new elements such as correctly loading vans so tools don't fly around in the event of an accident, and some basic first aid, potentially using footage shot at a real road traffic accident. "Our A&E trauma consultant will film with us, as invariably the first person on the scene isn't an emergency service," says Morris. She concludes: "I'd love to see the Crash Course DVD on every refresher course, and it should be part of the driving test."

. For more details contact Ann Morris at