FORCE IS ON SKILLS DRIVE; South Wales Police Unveils a New Simulator That Will Prepare Officers for Risks on the Road

South Wales Echo (Cardiff, Wales), July 23, 2009 | Go to article overview
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FORCE IS ON SKILLS DRIVE; South Wales Police Unveils a New Simulator That Will Prepare Officers for Risks on the Road


Byline: Abby Alford

SOUTH Wales Police has become the first force in the UK to teach its officers driving skills using a computer simulator.

Unveiling the equipment publicly for the first time yesterday, Sergeant Gareth Morgan said it will save lives.

"It's sadly inevitable that during pursuits or even police driver training that lives will be put at risk," he said.

"By training people in the simulator we reduce the amount of assessments that have to be done on the roads and also ensure that, when the drivers do get out there, they are better prepared for the situations they will face because they have already dealt with it in the simulator."

Sgt Morgan and the team at South Wales Police driving school have spent the past year developing the system, which is housed in an industrial unit in Cardiff Bay.

The work has earned Sgt Morgan and Insp Mark Brier the Queen's Award for Innovation for Police Training and Development.

It has been estimated that not only will the simulator cut the time spent on public roads by 20% to 25%, it will also save the force pounds 120,000 a year in efficiency gains.

Plus, unlike the unreliable Welsh weather, the machine can put drivers through their paces in a variety of conditions, including rain and snow.

"We can also programme the computer to simulate what it would be like driving under the influence," said Sgt Morgan.

"The car will drift and the screen will become blurred and the driver will naturally slow down as they try to control the car, which is exactly how real drink drivers behave. Any traffic officers will tell you that drivers under the influence are easily identifiable because they always go slow and drift from one side of the road to the other." While police officers will be the first to benefit from the simulator, Sgt Morgan said the Institute of Advanced Motorists and the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents will soon be invited to test it out.

He said the computer's numerous applications, many of which have not even been used yet, will also mean it could eventually be used to retrain banned drink-drivers and to help young drivers and other vulnerable groups learning to cope with the demands of modern motoring.

"We've barely scratched the surface in terms of its usage," said Sgt Morgan.

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