Scottish schoolchildren aged as young as 14 are to begin receiving driving lessons this week in an attempt to cut the number of teenage deaths on the nation’s roads.
The initiative in the Scottish Borders marks the first time that driver training has been included in the school curriculum, with more than 700 local pupils set to take part over the next year.
“Getting young driver education into schools as part of the curriculum has been a long-term goal”
Andy McLean, Police Scotland
It is hoped that the programme will help to reduce the number of accidents involving young drivers, with research showing that teenagers who receive pre-licence training are up to five times safer than their peers when they take to the roads.
The lessons will involve children aged between 14 and 17, with the first session being held on Thursday at RAF Charterhall, a disused airstrip near the village of Greenlaw in Berwickshire.
The course will assess pupils’ awareness and attitudes towards driving, before allowing them to get behind the wheel of a Volvo V40 so they can familiarise themselves with a modern car.
Motoring instructors will then take them through the fundamentals of driving, discussing the rules of the road and hazard perception, as well as teaching them how to manoeuvre a vehicle.
Young driver accidents
Drivers aged between 17 and 25 account for just 10 per cent of Scotland’s motorists but are involved in 20 per cent of crashes on the nation’s roads.
The problem can be worse in rural areas, where public transport is infrequent. A study carried out in the Borders last year found that around a quarter of road accidents involved drivers under the age of 25.
The scheme is being managed by John Cleland, a former British Touring Car Champion who now runs a Volvo dealership in the Borders, with support from the Scottish Borders Council and emergency services.
“In our region 47 per cent of the population live in a rural community where a high proportion of roads are classed as de-restricted, presenting many challenges and hazards for any driver, particularly those who are new to driving,” he said. “We have set up this new initiative to educate young people early.”
Nine local schools are taking part in the course, which could lead to further schemes being rolled out across Scotland.
“Getting young driver education into schools as part of the curriculum has been a long-term goal for everyone involved in the partnership as it offers long-term benefits for both the driver and the Borders community,” said Chief Inspector Andy McLean of Police Scotland.
“The new initiative gives young drivers the experience they need to survive the high-risk early months of solo driving, so anything we can do to provide them with these skills to make roads safer has to be welcomed.”