While the police and RoSPA have raised concerns about a new scheme designed to help teach 11-16 year-olds how to drive carefully, the chair of Road Safety GB feels the scheme has ‘real potential’ and should be ‘allowed to develop’.
Thousands of children are enrolling for driving lessons at specialist centres under the ‘Young Driver’ scheme, which is operated by the insurer Admiral Mulitcar and Seat UK.
Young Driver teaches youngsters to drive dual-controlled cars in a ‘safe’ environment. Using 200 new SEAT Ibiza models and specially designed driving zones, the organisers say the experience has been a ‘massive hit’ with young drivers and parents.
Kim Stanton, from Young Driver, said: "We are teaching youngsters the vital skills they are going to need in later life to drive.
"We believe these skills will stay with them, and learning at this age, when they are very keen to absorb and retain a lot of what we teach them, will definitely make them safer drivers."
Alan Kennedy, chairman of Road Safety GB, said: “We believe that this scheme may have real potential and should not be entirely dismissed – these youngsters are learning in a controlled environment, not out on our roads.
“By teaching pre drivers to use a car’s controls properly, new drivers can spend their ‘learner phase’ focusing on road safety issues and this could have a significant positive effect on the number of crashes involving new drivers.
“The evidence from Sweden is that this kind of approach has seen a 40% reduction in young driver casualties. It is important to ‘experiment’ in a controlled environment, so we can develop programmes to enhance road safety in the future. We should let this UK programme develop, see the results, and evaluate it fully.”
But inspector Alan Jones, from the Police Federation of England and Wales, has expressed reservations, saying: "Driving on one of these courses at 11 years old, it’s another six years until you can get a driving licence. How does it replicate the real world, the spontaneous incidents?
"Are kids mature enough at 11, 12, 13 years old to understand what’s happening on the roads, to be able to manage all the demands and pressures? I’m not persuaded it’s a good idea."
RoSPA has also warned the courses could make youngsters over confident and more likely to crash. Kevin Clinton said: "It will probably mean youngsters will take fewer lessons when they come to learn to drive and if they take fewer lessons they will get less experience.
"That means when they pass their test they may be at greater risk of crashing because they won’t have had as much experience when they are supervised."
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