A NEW online driving course, aimed at improving drivers' understanding of cyclist safety, has been launched in Southampton.

Researchers at the University of Southampton have launched the new online training course, which will increase people's understanding of what it's like to be a cyclist on the road.

Any driver who never, or rarely, cycles can sign up for the course which has been designed to help drivers see the road through the eyes of cyclists and become familiar with how the Highway Code applies to them, and it is hoped that this will provide them with a better understanding of why cyclists undertake certain manoeuvres and anticipate how they will position themselves in various situations.

The decline in public transport use as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic will see more people travelling by car and bicycle in the coming months and cyclists are disproportionately represented in accident statistics.

In 2016 more than 18,000 cyclists were injured in road accidents in the UK, 3499 of whom were killed or seriously injured, and on average in Southampton 124 cyclists are involved in collisions on the city’s roads each year, making up 16% of all accidents despite representing only 1.4% of daily traffic.

Dr Katie Plant, Lecturer in Human Factors in Engineering at the University of Southampton, who is leading the study said: “Most drivers do not get any specific training on how to interact with cyclists, unless they encounter bicycles during their driving lessons. Despite it being such a high risk scenario, it does not feature as part of the standard driving test and many of us will never revisit the Highway Code once we have passed. So as a result, a lot of people don’t understand how to interact with cyclists on the roads.”

The University’s Transport Research Group developed the course in partnership with Cycling UK and with funding from the Road Safety Trust, and the team want this course to complement the advanced driving tests which many drivers take to improve their driving skills, with a particular focus on how to interact with cyclists.

Users will have access to interactive exercises and videos that explain how cyclists should behave in various scenarios such as at crossroads and on roundabouts, and how cars can move safely passed them and a practical course, similar to the cycling proficiency test, will also be available to everyone who registers once the Government’s advice on social distancing means it is safe to carry out.

Anyone looking to register for the drivers’ course can do so by emailing Joy.Richardson@soton.ac.uk.