CLOSE TO- A method test to prevent accidents by deploying 'accident drivers' during the driver’s training procedure.

“Max, have you ever driven when you were drunk?” “Yes!” “Have you ever been a passenger in a car when the driver was drunk?” “Yes! All of us always drank, often one or the other said that he would stay sober – but in the end, he drank as well. There is no other way of getting home apart from driving, so one of us always drove. You try it out, first one beer and then you drive – then more... ”

This discussion was held during a driving lesson and follows the account of an “Accident driver” in which he tells future drivers about his car accident. His best friend dies in the accident. 6 young people sat in the car that, with a speed of more than 150 km/h, raced into a forest in the early hours of a Sunday in the autumn of last year. Max was the driver; he was drunk and is currently serving his sentence. During this sentence, he agreed to take part in the project CLOSE TO. The research association Mobility FGM developed this project and is implementing it with the help of the European Commission, and the Austrian Road Safety Fund.

Discussions like the one above arise after every presentation of an “Accident driver”. “Accident drivers” visited driving schools as “Offenders” to talk about their personal accident experiences. The Project name “CLOSE TO” describes the closeness of the event of the accident itself and to the person who experienced it and is talking about it. Many of these accident drivers took part in this project during their imprisonment. “Accidents always happen to others.” That is also what Max, who is talking about his experience in the driving school today, thought. That is why the approach involving the offender was selected very consciously as an instrument for the Austrian demonstration.

The learners are respectful, intent and listen to what someone of their own age group has to say. Quite often, some of them cry and one female learner even said, after the accident driver asked if anybody had any questions, “Wait, I think we all need a moment before we can go on.” His account gets under the skin of his listeners, without superficial shock effects. A person, who lived through the experience, is of a similar age as the learners and “Wants to make amends” tells of his experience in an authentic and sincere way.

This “Need to make amends” seems initially incidental, but during the project the additional effect of the scheme on the rehabilitation of young accident drivers becomes more and more evident.

An important aspect for the success of the method is the feeling of guilt and as a consequence the authenticity of the speakers. This authenticity is also mirrored in the hitherto existing evaluation results: the driving pupils evidently approve of this method of emotional learning in the driving school and there is a noticeable positive influence on planned risk behaviour typical of this age group.

The evaluation of the survey confirmed the assumption that this methodology makes sense and is a promising method of risk prevention within the process of acquiring a driver’s licence.

In the province of Styria, also a partner in the EU Project, CLOSE TO has already been an important procedure in its Road safety program for the last 3 years.

A sequel project to the MODULE CLOSE TO was started in April 2007. It aims to prepare for this new approach for the European Driver schooling over the following 3 years.
This project includes further demonstrations in the 11 European partner countries, further education for driving teacher trainers, as well as the development of practical guidelines in the form of a Handbook.

Further information on the project may be found at: or under