The SALA (Save A Life Australia) Programs

Australia’s first educational Virtual Reality Driving Simulator

Hundreds of thousands of dollars has been spent on road safety initiatives that have not worked! This is the finding of the national road safety group AAA. A new approach has to be found to start the process of developing a safer driving culture. We believe that we have a program that will help to make the roads a safer place to be. South Australia now has a driving simulator that has been developed using state of the art virtual reality technology. It is the first simulator in the country of its kind. The intention will be to expand the program nationally.

What do we aim to do with the simulator?

Our aim is to be a driving force for more effective driver education in Australia by promoting better understanding of the dangers of driving to members of all age groups, communities, schools and workplaces.

 We aim to improve driving standards and therefore reduce the risk and expense of vehicle crashes as well as the obvious heartache caused by the consequences of devastating crashes.

 We also aim to deliver innovative driver awareness programs to High School students who are about to pursue their life as a driver. Using state of the art virtual reality systems, the program is designed to promote safe driving strategies and awareness in a way that is regarded by experts worldwide as extremely effective.

Our objectives

Drivers of varying experience will be able to demonstrate safer driving techniques and attitudes. They will also demonstrate an understanding of the dangers of driving without due care and attention (for example using mobile phones), deciding not to drive while under the influence of alcohol, and the ability to drive more defensively.

New drivers who experience our Young Drivers Awareness courses will have had hands-on practice and knowledge of how to prepare for and avoid dangerous situations on the roads. They will be better prepared than ever before for the challenges that they will face as the most vulnerable drivers on Australia’s roads.

How effective is the system?

By driving a real car in real life situations we all gain effective experience. The simulator gives real traction to the courses by allowing students to drive a real car. The car is stationary so it allows people of any age to gain experience of dealing with the dangers of many situations in complete safety.

This method of learning has served the air travel industry for decades and has been very successful at saving thousands of lives by giving pilots hands on experience of life threatening situations in the safety of a simulator.

 The use of mobile phones and other distractions while driving the simulator has a hard-hitting effect on students. They realise very effectively that they actually cannot drive a car safely if they are not concentrating.

Is there a real problem or just media hype?

A USA study of 699 drivers who had a mobile phone and who had been involved in a damage-only road accident examined their mobile phone records on the day of the accident and during the preceding week. Statistical analysis indicated that the risk of being involved in a collision was four times higher when using a hand-held or a hands-free phone than when not using one. In a recent review of their study, the authors have concluded that their findings were robust, and if anything under-estimated the risk.

Redelmeier, D. A., & Tibshirani, R. J. “Association Between
 Cellular Telephone Calls and Motor Vehicle Collisions”,
The New England Journal of Medicine, Vol. 336,
 Number 7, 1997

Speed is a killer

We all know that. Emphasis on how excessive speed can cause major crashes is used to educate how we can all change our driving habits to become safer. As in real life, if you drive too fast in our simulator, the chances are that you WILL crash.

Because a real car is being used, there truly is a sense of reality to the sessions. The “driver” has to steer, brake, accelerate and make decisions when confronted with true to life road and traffic situations.

How effective is a Driving Simulator at reproducing driving situations that are real enough?

A comparison of the effects of using a mobile phone while driving on real roads and on a driving simulator was conducted to assess whether the results found on driving simulators were indicative of the results that could be expected on actual roads. Six male and six female drivers drove on a freeway route while periodically making calls on a hand-held mobile phone, and then drove a similar route on a driving simulator while also periodically making calls. Using the mobile phone reduced the driving precision (lane position and speed control) of all the subjects, both on the road and on the simulator. Although the variations in maintaining lane position were more exaggerated in the simulator than on the road, results still showed that the simulator provided a valid indication of the effects that would occur on the road.

Reed and Green “Comparison of Driving Performance
On-road and in a Low-cost Simulator Using a Concurrent
 Telephone Dialling Task”, Ergonomics 42(8), 1999

The benefits to all communities are far reaching. We believe that we really can start to make a difference to how all future and current drivers behave on our roads.

This is the first of its kind in Australia. A Virtual Reality system that can be used to make our future drivers safer, saving unmeasurable heartache and millions of dollars.

Here is some news footage to give you a better idea of our program. Play the videos below.