Attaining a driving license is no longer the rite of passage it once was. With changes planned to the driving test, changing traffic conditions and an ageing population wanting to hold on to their licenses for as long as possible, a renewed push for better driving skills was inevitable.
Young drivers are an essential part of the classic car movement – there needs to be an enthusiastic new generation eager and willing to carry on the preservation of historic vehicles. The Federation of British Historic Vehicle Clubs (FBHVC) has made great strides with its engineering and vehicle restoration apprenticeships; ditto the British Motor Museum and its Classic Virgins Experience Day.
Secondary school curricula and driver training have gone hand in hand in parts of Europe and North America for decades – but not in the United Kingdom.
A new initiative launched late last month in the Scottish Borders aims to change that. Part of the national curriculum, aimed at 14 to 17 year olds, the secondary school driving course aims to train 700 youngsters this year. Former British touring car driver (and latter day Volvo dealership principal) John Cleland has lent his backing to the scheme, along with
Police Scotland, IAM RoadSmart, Scottish Fire and Rescue, Scottish Ambulance Service, and the Scottish Borders Council, the programme hopes to see 700 local 14 to 17-year-old secondary school pupils take part during 2017.
Research conducted by the IAM Under 17 Car Club found that under-17s with controlled driving experience were five times safer than their peers when they finally took to the road. Its graduate data recorded a first-year accident rate of one in 20 compared with one in five nationally.
Over 14 day-long sessions, students will learn road craft at the former RAF airfield at Charterhall, in Berwickshire. Volvo Car UK is clearly hoping to pick up some young customers by proxy – it’s supplying 20 cars to be used in teaching.
“In our region, 47 per cent of the population live in a rural community where a high proportion of roads are classed as derestricted, presenting many challenges and hazards for any driver, particularly those who are new to driving. We have set up this new initiative to educate young people early, because it’s been found that those under the age of 17 with controlled driving experience are five times safer than their peers,” John Cleland argued.
At the other end of the motoring demographic, IAM Roadsmart wants to keep older drivers on the road for as long as possible. It recently rebranded its Mature Driver Assessment as the Mature Driver Review; the content and cost of the course remains the same.
Sarah Sillars, IAM RoadSmart chief executive officer, said: “We didn’t want mature drivers to be scared off by the word ‘assessment,’ as there is no pass or fail with the Mature Driver Review. It is all about giving the driver a reassurance that their driving is still up to standard and to offer an extra confidence boost as our roads get more congested.”
An IAM RoadSmart spokesperson argued that older drivers are sometimes pressured into giving up driving long before they need to – leading to isolation and in some cases depression as the individual loses a key part of their freedom. “With 10,000 people reaching their 70th birthday each month in the UK [IAM RoadSmart figures] maintaining safe mobility is a an issue that can no longer be ignored.”
As more classic car owners continue to enjoy their cars well into their twilight years, the argument remains that we need preserve driving skills as well as historic vehicles.
Sarah Sillars concluded: “Older drivers are some of the safest on our roads – we are very keen that they don’t hang up their car keys before they need to. Isolating older people by taking their cars away from them will impact heavily on society and increase demands on our health services.”