Emergency responses of the police, ambulance, and rescue services are associated with a high risk of accidents, but practicing them in real traffic is neither safe nor permissible. A simulator-based method developed by the Swedish National Road and Transport Research Institute (VTI) offers a unique means of gaining risk-free practice in dealing with possible emergency situations.
In recent years, VTI has developed both methods and technologies for practicing emergency responses in a simulator. VTI is now seeking research funding for training police, rescue service, and ambulance personnel.
“These drivers face sudden, unexpected difficulties during emergency responses. It’s impossible to practise for such scenarios on the road, but they are very well suited to a simulator environment”, said VTI Research Director Anders Lindström.
Emergency responses with sirens and flashing lights are risky endeavours that require quick decisions and intense concentration. Police and rescue services must reach the accident site quickly and safely and, in the case of the ambulance service, the driver must consider the patient as well.
“In our driving simulators, the drivers can get high-intensity practice in various traffic environments. The training can also focus on risk awareness and self-perception, giving individuals a better understanding of their own behaviours and reactions”, continued Lindström.
The events practiced include unforeseen traffic incidents, such as when a preceding vehicle suddenly brakes or changes lanes or a cyclist unexpectedly crosses the road, as well as other situations that could cause an accident during an actual emergency response. Such moments can be practiced repeatedly in the simulator to make drivers more secure and comfortable in real situations. The drivers can learn from their mistakes, and repeat the lessons at their own pace. The emergency responses can be recorded from various points of views, enabling the driver to discuss the situations with colleagues and contributing to greater self-insight and risk awareness. The aim is for the rescue personnel to reach the accident site safely and still have the capability to do a good job at the accident site.
“We have expertise and a simulator solution that aren’t available anywhere else”, added Lindström. “In the first scenario we developed, the drivers practiced emergency responses in congested city traffic, on rural roads, and on motorways”.
VTI’s overarching research concern is how simulator-based training can be used to improve traffic safety. VTI wants to develop relevant and varied sequences of events along with better models of vehicle movements at high speeds. The researchers also want to verify the efficacy of these methods, for example, in terms of reduced work loads and lower accident risks.
During this effort, the project group has cooperated with the police, rescue, and ambulance services. VTI’s simulator programme is already being used to train personnel in some parts of Sweden.
“Now we want to develop the concept further with different parties, which is why we are welcoming more cooperation. A better and less stressful work environment, improved traffic safety and more efficient emergency responses are some of the positive effects that can be achieved through simulator training, and everyone benefits if we can lower the risks associated with emergency response”, concluded Lindström.