Bid to cut deaths

EXMOUTH S fire-fighters could be spending their quiet shifts educating young people on driving, in a bid to slash road deaths.

EXMOUTH'S fire-fighters could be spending their 'quiet' shifts educating young people on driving, in a bid to slash road deaths.

At a cost of �20,000, Devon and Somerset Fire Service has refitted a vehicle which will be the focal point of a new national campaign to increase driver safety - the first of its kind in the country.

The vehicle, a converted VW van, was refitted following a grant from a Government quango, a Country Mile, whose remit is to prevent road deaths among young people.

The 'educational' vehicle has 10,000-watt nightclub-quality speakers, a TV and even computer game console with a driving game.

It follows an aborted bid last year by police, the fire service, Devon County Council and the town council - collectively the dangerous Drivers Reduction Action Group (DRAG) - to host a series of outdoor events in a bid to tackle the problem of speeding 'boy racers' on the seafront.

However, the plug was pulled because of fears that young drivers from up and down the country would descend on Exmouth using internet chat rooms.

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But, on Monday, the Fire Service's James Hannaford briefed the council on a more 'ad-hoc approach' where fire officers in the specially refitted vehicle would turn up on spec and try to build a rapport with young people.

"We have a duty to try to educate them and reduce road deaths," said Mr Hannaford.

"It can be very difficult to get them to listen and often they think they know it all and somehow driver safety is 'fuddy duddy'.

"We want to try to engage with young people on their level. The vehicle has got a good stereo and has a computer driving game which they can try out.

"On a quiet night, firefighters could go out on an ad-hoc basis to where drivers are gathered and try to educate them, and build a rapport.

"We want them to realise that, unlike a computer game, when you crash in real life you don't reset.