About the project

The need for a new information video on how best to assist an emergency services’ driver on a blue light run has been raised frequently in recent years. A previous initiative, dating from around a decade ago, was led by Robert Jackson, then head of driver training at West Midlands Fire and Rescue and the founder of the National Blue Light Users Conference.

It was at this conference, in September 2009, that a call came for an updated video. Tom Baker, driver training manager at Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue, explained that emergency response vehicles were being unnecessarily damaged, while too many members of the public were putting themselves in danger or breaking the law unnecessarily, while trying to assist an emergency vehicle on a blue light run.

Not only would an information campaign, with a video at its core, help build better relations between emergency services and the wider public, it might also reduce damage to vehicles and promote safer sharing of the roads, according to Tom Baker.

But what chance would there be of getting every emergency service organisation to agree on the content of a video that would ultimately last less than four minutes? Initially, this was reckoned to be a likely sticking point, but Drive Smarter (exhibitors at the conference) took up the challenge and offered to spearhead the production of just such a video.

The next step was to examine the budget and where we would find financial support. It was, of course, good to hear that members of GEM’s Road Safety Charity Committee had agreed to provide funding for the video, as part of a series of four road safety information videos to be commissioned during the course of 2011. This funding was subsequently boosted by a donation from Volvo, who also supplied some of the vehicles used for filming.

This gave us the solid platform we needed to push ahead with the all-important research. We drew up a plan of consultation, which involved discussing the specific issues with emergency service driver trainers. The input from members of the public came direct from GEM members, in an excellent response to a call for comment in an earlier edition of Good Motoring magazine.

We set out to find levels of awareness among drivers. Did they feel they knew what to do in different situations? How might an experienced driver behave differently from a learner driver? Were they familiar with Rule 219 of the Highway Code? What emotions did an approaching emergency vehicle produce in them, and how did these emotions affect their ability to react sensibly and logically?

Armed with a load of feedback, plus an up-to-date copy of the Highway Code, we set about preparing a script. This was tweaked and honed many times, as various emergency service representatives made helpful suggestions. Taking a deep breath, we issued a final version to documentary film makers Beeston Media, who would direct and edit the two-day shoot.

The first day’s filming was facilitated by West Sussex County Council. This meant we had access to a large area of private roadway. Assistance from Sussex Police, South East Coast Ambulance and West Sussex Fire and Rescue ensured a full complement of ‘blue light’ vehicles available for the various scenarios we needed to illustrate.

The second day saw us in Plymouth, where we worked with Devon and Somerset Fire, Devon and Cornwall Police and South Western Ambulance. By late afternoon, the filming schedule was completed and the editors could get to work.

The ‘finished product’, as well as being a highly polished production, is a tribute to the efforts of everyone who had some say in its development. Our hope is that the ‘Blue Light Aware’ video does justice to the fantastic co-operation and goodwill that has underpinned the process of research and production.