John Sootheran: It's easier to reach the 'Maxheads' from the inside

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The cult car magazine Max Power and the youth sub-culture it represents are on the receiving end of constant criticism from MPs, police and councils. But it's not as black and white as the detractors would have you believe. Here's the case for the defence.

The cult car magazine Max Power and the youth sub-culture it represents are on the receiving end of constant criticism from MPs, police and councils. But it's not as black and white as the detractors would have you believe. Here's the case for the defence.

Max Power is the UK's bestselling motoring magazine. It has been around for 11 years and is the bible for young drivers who like to modify their cars. The Max Power market is worth hundreds of millions of pounds a year and employs thousands of people.

The typical reader is 21 and passionate about their car. It's their way of expressing their individuality. Our readers like to show off their cars, so they get together with other petrolheads on a weekly basis, to compare "mods" and music over a Big Mac.

These car cruises have taken place since the 1950s. In the past eight years, I have been to hundreds. They are invariably good-humoured affairs; not once have I seen violence. Transplant those 500 guys into a town centre on a Saturday night and fill them with Stella and I doubt the same would be true. Making out that every cruiser is a lawbreaker is like calling every soccer fan a hooligan. There is a troublesome minority, but I dare say even badminton has the odd mentalist fan.

Statistically, drivers who "max" their cars are likely to take better care of them, and have fewer crashes. Admittedly, I wouldn't want a cruise outside my house and that is why Max Power endeavours to get cruisers, police and councils talking to find cruise-friendly areas in which to meet.

Unfortunately, the unremitting negativity and hostility from certain quarters isn't conducive to making this happen, and sadly much of the criticism is based on hearsay, presumption and ignorance.

Mr Knight is a prime example. In his column, he quotes from Max Power: "The sound of police vans sneaking up behind you when you're pissed...", giving the impression that the magazine condones drink-driving. In fact, the line referred to pedestrians. Max Power abhors drink-driving, as do most of our readers. I think he'll find it's his generation that is most likely to flout those laws. Of course, with Max's irreverent reputation, most readers will believe Mr Knight.

It appears he knows little about communicating with 17- to 25-year-olds. His preachy delivery (the same one that successive governments have used) has little effect and only serves to alienate Britain's youth.

Better, I think, to immerse yourself in their culture and talk to them from the inside. In the past two years, Max Power has run features on drink-driving, drug-driving, road rage, speeding, driving while tired, and uninsured drivers. None of the features "celebrate" these misdemeanours, but neither do they preach in a Knight style. Instead, they give readers the facts: the effects of such actions, and possible scenarios and outcomes.

Max Power talks to its readers in a language they understand. This does not endear us to older readers, parents and the middle-class - but it has given us the credibility, and a fantastic platform, to launch an advanced driving scheme called Max Driver, in partnership with the Institute of Advanced Motorists.

Max Power has invested hundreds of thousands of pounds in the scheme, but when we asked the Government for support, the best they could do was give us the road safety minister David Jamieson for a photo call for 10 minutes.

Sadly, young lads will always drive too fast. They did in Mr Knight's day (before Max Power existed), they do now and, I've no doubt, they will in future. Education may be the key, and Max Power is doing its bit on that score.

The crash statistics are unacceptable, but blaming a magazine for something genetic in the male of the species might be considered a tad unfair. It's time the Government, police and councils started working with Maxheads, because there's millions of them out there and they ain't going away.

John Sootheran is editor- in-chief of 'Max Power'

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