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Road to hell is paved with bad decisions

PUBLISHED: 10:30 14 November 2008 | UPDATED: 21:47 05 July 2010

WORRYING SIGHT: Richard Wood tries on the

WORRYING SIGHT: Richard Wood tries on the "booze goggles" behind the wheel.

AS the Save a Life campaign kicks into its third month, Suffolk Roadsafe invited members of the media to RAF Woodbridge to demonstrate some of the key traffic offences being committed on the county's roads.

AS the Save a Life campaign kicks into its third month, Suffolk Roadsafe invited members of the media to RAF Woodbridge to demonstrate some of the key traffic offences being committed on the county's roads.

The Journal sent reporter RICHARD WOOD along to drive recklessly in a controlled environment to understand the dangers drivers are putting themselves in on the road.

ON a cold, wet and windy day, a variety of the region's media huddled together on the side of an airfield. Accompanied by top ranking police officers, we were to drive an unmarked police car round an obstacle course while breaking some of the laws of the road.

Why you ask? Well, with Road Safety Week set to take place and the recent release of shocking figures showing just how many crimes are being committed on the county's roads, Suffolk Police and county council officials decided it was time to highlight just how much danger motorists are putting themselves, their passengers and their fellow road users in.

The first challenge on Friday was driving while on a mobile phone. Accompanied by Inspector Alex Morrison I was to drive a tight obstacle course. After performing a reverse park (incidentally this part of the task was simply for their amusement) the phone rang and I was instructed to answer.

On the other end was PC Paul Fletcher, who would keep me occupied with hard questions as I tried to concentrate on the awkward course ahead. Sure enough the speed slowed and cones started being hit as I struggled to keep focussed on the road.

The message was clear. If you are speaking on the phone you are not concentrating on the road and your reactions are slower. Also, unlike talking to a passenger, the person on the phone is not aware of what is happening around you, and won't stop talking when a clear hazard approaches. In this case a few cones were hit, but on the road the damage could be a lot worse.

The task everyone was “looking forward to” was the challenge of driving with special “booze goggles” on.

We were told of a certain inspector's inability to even get in the car while wearing them and everyone expected the cones to go flying as we experienced the illusion of being drunk behind the wheel.

The goggles went on and instantly the challenge in front of me was obvious. A combination of blurry and double vision made the road ahead look like a sea of cones. Very slowly, we edged forward in the car as I guessed which cone was really there and tried to ignore the floating ones.

It was without doubt impossible to drive in a safe way. My speed was down to a dangerous crawl as all of my concentration was required to see what was in front of us. What we were doing was a fun exercise in a controlled environment, but the message was considerably clearer than the vision behind the “booze goggles”.

Leaving behind the car, we headed inside for a reality check. Here, we were confronted with shocking images of traffic accidents from the county's roads. The results of using a mobile phone, excessive speed and drink-driving were shown in pictures that leave you in no doubt as to the dangers these activities put you in. The type of images that make you realise that trying to save a couple of seconds by driving too fast, quickly taking that supposedly important phone call and having just a little drink while driving are just not worth it.

Most shockingly of all were the images of accidents where a life was lost simply because they weren't wearing a seatbelt. Incidents where the others involved, who were wearing a seatbelt, walked away with just cuts and bruises.

“From last year alone there would be 12 people still walking the streets of Suffolk it they had put on their seatbelts,” said acting supterintendent Martin Barnes-Smith.

Over 1,100 people have been caught since the beginning of September without wearing a seatbelt and the question is - why are you not using the most important safety aspect of your car?

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