Experiential design company MET Studio has been commissioned by the Kent Fire and Rescue Service to create a new exhibition on road safety, aimed at lowering the number of deaths on the roads in Kent and beyond. It is the largest and most ambitious exhibition of its kind ever created in the UK and is targeted in particular at young and young adult drivers: the highest-risk driver group for fatalities, with road accidents still the single biggest killer of 15-24 year-olds in the UK – and the greatest killer of young men aged 15-29 worldwide.
‘We applaud the foresight of the Kent Fire and Rescue Service in commissioning this exhibition’, commented MET Studio Design Director Peter Karn ‘and hope that its innovative design and concept will serve as a new benchmark for road safety exhibits of this kind in the UK.’ The exhibition will be housed in a new build-block (by architects Pick Everard), adjacent to the existing road safety centre, which is used for corrective courses for drivers and to train fire officers. The exhibition space will be approximately 800 sq m in size, over two floors. Once completed (in late 2014), it will host visits from pre-booked school and youth groups, who will be guided by specially-trained hosts through the exhibition storyline.
The vision behind the exhibition is to engender an increased sense of responsibility in young drivers for their actions, making them fully aware of the sometimes drastic consequences of what can seem like very small actions – such as texting whilst driving. The interactive exhibits will allow visitors to make a series of choices and will show both the outcome of those choices and their immediate and sometimes long-term consequences.
‘When it came to the overall tone of voice the exhibition needs to adopt’, commented Peter Karn, ‘we were very aware that a preaching tone of voice is very easy for this age group to disregard, whilst a dry representation of rules and regulations would not be engaging. Instead, we aim to take visitors through a series of situations and put them at the centre of decision-making processes, without judgement, so that they make real connections between actions and their consequences.’ MET Studio kicked off the project with a series of workshops, held at the Kent Fire and Rescue headquarters, with four different age-group participants (from GCSE and A Level students to those at college and work), testing out real-life responses to questions such as ‘If you could get away with it, would you drink and drive?’.
The new exhibition will begin with a high-impact ‘shock factor’ area on the ground floor, showing two real-life crash vehicles. Screens inside the cars will run real interviews with people involved in crashes, from drivers and passengers to emergency rescue and medical staff, looking at what happened before, during and after the accident. Personal items, from asthma inhalers to baby chairs, will be inside the cars to underline their reality. This will be followed by a more light-hearted interactive film, shown within a 100-seater theatre, featuring a group of young people in the most realistic way possible, talking and bantering so that both the viewer and the characters almost forget they are driving – until they are involved in a crash. Each visitor has a voting panel and the way people vote guides the next stage of the film, which ends with real-life statistics on the results of each decision.
The first floor will be arranged around three major themes: awareness, responsibility and distraction. Each area will have a graphic surround and, within each, a collaborative interactive will communicate the principles of its subject in an everyday life scenario, linking behaviour in everyday life to behaviour in a car and showing how decisions outside a car have a whole different context. ‘We wanted to avoid unreal scenarios such as driving simulators’ explained Peter Karn. ‘We are not competing with video games in an attempt to create a virtual driving reality. Instead, we were seeking to create deliberate unfamiliarity at times, to make people really examine their behaviour and potential behaviour in order to effect and change some of those small, but potentially cataclysmic, decisions they might make as future passengers and drivers.’
Project name: Road Safety exhibition