“You pass your test at 17 or 18 and thereafter, you need no further training until you are 75 and you give up your licence.”
In one sentence, John Siddle of Lincolnshire Road Safety Partnership (LRSP) summed up the danger for drivers who experience the thrill of passing their driving test.
Since the introduction of the driving test on June 1, 1935, about 50 million tests have been taken in Great Britain and more than 27 million vehicles are on our roads, according to the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency.
Transport Minister Lord Tariq Ahmad said: “The driving test is a significant rite of passage, giving greater freedom and independence to generations of people across Britain.
“This country has a proud tradition of leading innovation and the driving test is just one example of us continually improving, making our roads some of the safest in the world.”
But road safety campaigners such as LRSP and the charity Brake continue to warn of the risk to young drivers aged between 17 and 24 who are at a much higher risk of crashing than older drivers.
According to figures from Brake, drivers aged 17-19 only make up 1.5 per cent of UK licence holders but are involved in 12 per cent of fatal and serious crashes.
Steve Screaton of LRSP said: “We understand, through research, that young drivers need the experience and extra skills to help them develop and become a competent driver.
“It takes up to at least three years of driving experience to fulfil that role of becoming an experienced, competent driver and if we can help them along the way by providing them with the skill sets, it will go a long way to keeping them as safe as possible.” Around the time of the LRSP’s launch in June 2000, the PassPlus training scheme was introduced to improve the skills of new drivers aged between 17 and 24 who have the added incentive of car insurance discounts.
The scheme, subsidised by LRSP partners such as Lincolnshire County Council and Highways England, starts with a half-day theory session where four main aspects of driving are examined.
During a theory session in Lincoln, road safety officer Robin Mardon said: “The PassPlus programme deals with advanced hazard perception, all-weather driving, night driving and motorway driving to help people travelling on the road to become a successful and safer driver.
“One of the underlying messages in the programme is if you look after yourself, you will indirectly protect everybody else who are out on the road.
“Lincolnshire is predominantly an urban county but if you need to go anywhere, you have to get to a motorway.
“My personal belief is that when you’re learning to drive, the last two lessons before you take your test should be with a qualified driving instructor, out on the motorways because it’s a completely different style of driving.”
The practical driving part of PassPlus is made up of town and city centre driving, with particular emphasis on observation, judgement and awareness, all-weather driving in rain, sleet, snow, ice, mist, fog and bright sunshine and driving on rural roads.
Robin said: “Once you have passed your driving test, you have the freedom to go out and drive on Britain’s roads.
“But it takes about six months for a driver to feel confident about driving a car on their own because, until you’ve passed your test, you always have someone there to guide you and answer your questions.
“Confidence builds as you’re out there on the open road but unfortunately, your skills aren’t matching the confidence and when you have a shunt, that experience starts to kick in.
“For the rest of your driving career, you’ll be more self-conscious and looking for that experience to happen again so that you can stop it.”
The rest of the PassPlus practical driving experience includes night driving, dual carriageway driving and motorways which, in practice, only takes up a small fraction of the six-hour session.
However, with figures from the RAC (Royal Automobile Club) Foundation which showed that 68 per cent of all teenage car passengers killed or seriously injured in the UK during 2013 were in cars driven by someone aged between 17-24, the words of ex-Formula One world champion Nigel Mansell ring true.
He said: “The first few years of driving are a dangerous time.”
PassPlus arrives after 2Fast2Soon
Students too young to drive are being given lessons for life on the road through Lincolnshire Road Safety Partnership’s 2Fast2Soon programme.
Writing in the latest magazine produced by St Laurence’s Church, Surfleet, Spalding Elloe county councillor Elizabeth Sneath said: “The LRSP is inviting all of our secondary schools and sixth-form colleges to participate in the latest 2Fast2Soon programme.
“A drama performance and interactive group workshop will visit schools to raise awareness of the immediate and long-term consequences of poor road user behaviour and decision making for new, young drivers.
“Students will be introduced to hugely important issues surrounding collisions such as risk, guilt, peer pressure, consequences and long-term effects on all parties involved.
“This is a very effective way of working to reduce road deaths and injuries to young drivers and their passengers and I hope many of our local teenagers will be willing to participate.”