Safety first on the open road

A college course to teach students the art of careful driving has taken off in Bolton. Malcolm Pithers reports
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The Independent Online
Students at Bolton College's Horwich campus have become the first in the country to have safe driving on their curriculum.

They are benefiting from a pilot scheme aimed at 16- to18-year-olds who are keen to learn how to drive safely. The 12-week package includes free driving lessons of one hour per week with quite specific aims in preparing young people for their future lives on the open and, at times, extremely dangerous road.

The course is part of motor vehicle studies funded by the college to the tune of pounds 10,000. It is being run in conjunction with the Bolton and District Driving Instructors Association, Bolton Council's road safety unit and enthusiastic road traffic police from the Greater Manchester force.

The policemen have even promised to take students on motorway patrols to give them an insight into how badly many members of the public actually drive.

Stephen Longworth, the course tutor, said the main aims of the course are to "develop a positive and safe attitude" towards driving among students while increasing their overall knowledge in vital areas. The scheme is the only one of its kind in the country and has been well received, both by the students and by organisations keen to help educate young people in the art of driving.

"The principal of the college felt there was a need for this type of course and, although it is only a pilot scheme, we have proved its worth. We hope we can achieve a level of sponsorship to help us to continue because obviously it is an expensive venture. But everyone appreciates the value of what we are trying to do," said Mr Longworth.

The course includes an understanding of current legislation, especially those laws linked to road safety and motoring offences. A guest speaker from the Greater Manchester police identifies the effects that different attitudes can have on developing their driving skills.

The risks of driving under the influence of drink or drugs, and of aggressive or reckless behaviour on the roads, are clearly outlined - as are the rudiments of motorway driving.

The students must also carry out basic car maintenance, learn the Highway Code, study the types of insurance plans available and, preparing for the worst, are taught the correct procedures for reporting an accident.

The college is also setting a theory examination, which will be a prerequisite for UK driving tests in 1996.

The youngsters concerned are full of praise for the course; and they are pleased to be given free instruction - although they realise they need to carry on with their driving lessons at the end of their studies, if they are to pass their tests.

Jennifer Smethurst, a 17-year-old on the course, felt that young people were perhaps not as courteous as they should be on the roads and that a change in attitudes to their driving could only help them in the future.

"I'm sure it will help to produce better drivers among the young people on the course," she said.

Alex Berry, also 17, who has now passed his driving test, admits that on his first day of solo driving he did "blast around". Maturity is in sight, though. "Now I'm a lot more aware of what is happening around me. Anyway, my vehicle is a caravanette, so that should keep me safe and sound."