Monday, 21st May 2018

South Tyneside College hairdressing student Kayleigh Blackburn has enjoyed a day of driving real-life supercars after passing her virtual reality driving test.

Kayleigh, 21, from Simonside, South Shields, proved in control manoeuvring some of the borough’s best-known streets on a hi-tech Oculus Rift simulation machine.

It allowed her to travel along Ocean Road in South Shields, and go through Tyne Tunnel, without ever leaving the classroom.

Her five-minute trial was part of Road Respect’s Top Class Tour, a scheme operated as part of the Northumbria Safer Roads Initiative (NRSI), a council and Northumbria Police-funded road safety awareness campaign.

Road Respect’s events team brought the portable driving simulator, which features other genuine locations such as the Angel of the North and Bamburgh Castle, to colleges across the region.

It is part of its targeted programme to promote better and safer driving among 18 to 24-year-olds.

During the five-minute test, students are awarded for safe driving, such as avoiding distractions and not crashing or speeding.

The most proficient student from each college won a trip to Teesside’s Croft Circuit racing track where they experience a speed lap with an instructor, an auto test and timed laps.

Kayleigh, who is taking a level 3 diploma, got behind the wheel of a formula one vehicle, a Porsche Cayman and a Mazda MPS, all designed for speed.

She said: “It was thoroughly enjoyable day at Croft Circuit and a great experience to be able to drive these fantastic cars.

“Trying out the simulator took a bit of getting used to, but I obviously did well and got around the roads without incident.

“I like the idea that the simulator is brought into colleges to help young people to better understand road safety.

“While it is a fun way to learn important safety lessons, it also helps you to better think about being careful when behind the wheel.”

Alison Maynard, Principal of South Tyneside College, said: “Showing the importance of driving safely and responsibly are things this initiative does so well.

“No matter how good they may be behind the wheel, young people lack the driving experience that only years on the roads can bring.

“They can greatly expand their safe driving horizons through this scheme, and it is important the programme is supported by this college.

“Kayleigh showed she has the maturity and ability to be a safe, skilled and responsible driver out in the real world.”

Steve Donaldson, NSRI Partnership Manager, added: “The virtual reality technology is a great way to appeal to the younger demographic and with points being awarded for correct behaviour, we find students competing with one another to drive the safest and avoid distractions.

“This is great practice for real life driving and helps them to be more prepared and aware when out on the roads. 

“The Croft Circuit race experience prize showed the students how to drive with the help of seasoned pros, giving them more confidence behind the wheel and a unique prize which was extremely popular with our winners.”

As well as driving along simulated South Tyneside roads, Kayleigh went to Tynemouth Priory and into Northumberland.

She and other college winners were given full instruction at Croft Circuit by its team of professionals.

The councils which fund Northumbria Safer Roads Road Initiative are South Tyneside, North Tyneside, Gateshead, Newcastle, Sunderland, Northumberland and Gateshead.

More information on Northumbria Safer Roads Partnership is on Facebook at roadrespectuk and on Twitter at @roadrespect.