An advanced driving programme gives young motorists in the Borders a lifeline

A life-saving advanced motoring programme is back in action after lockdown and ready to drive down shocking levels of fatalities involving young people on Scottish Borders roads.

Wednesday, 23rd June 2021, 4:10 pm
John Cleland, Ian Dalgleish and Fraser Brydon, IAM Instructors, with driving student 22 year old Ross McConnell. (Photo: BILL McBURNIE)

Roads in the region are among the deadliest in the UK, statistics prove.

Particularly at risk are those aged between 17 and 25, with hardly a year going by when a handful of young people in that age bracket don't lose their lives.

That's where the Institute of Advanced Motoring (IAM) comes in with its Drivewise Borders course, previously funded by central government and Scottish Borders Council and now operating due to the generosity of John Cleland, the retired racing driver, of the Cleland Volvo car dealership in Galashiels.

Mr Cleland founded Drivewise with Borders police inspector Andrew McClean a few years back.

A team of volunteer instructors – known as observers – with Borders Group Advanced Motorists (BGAM) guide the young people through the course for a fee of £149, which is returnable on successful passing of the test, of which 98% do.

Aside from making better young drivers and ensuring our roads are safer it can also reduce the cost of the individual's car insurance premiums.

It's a win-win situation for Fraser Brydon, vice chair of BGAM, which also supports motorcyclists.

The Drivewise programme was suspended back in October last year due to the pandemic but resumed again last week.

Fraser is convinced it is a life-saver.

He said: "It's what we call a skill for life. We know we actually save lives, we know that. We've had kids who have been horrendous drivers, who have a couple of crashes, speeding tickets and we've worked hard with them. It's a hobby for us but we thoroughly enjoy it.

"They walk away a much better driver. It makes you a safer, smoother and more observant driver, guaranteed. Most of the youth which come along have had an accident and their insurance premiums have gone through the roof.

"Most of them are funded by mums, dads and grannies who are concerned about their grandson or granddaughter's driving, because they’ve had a crash.

"These are youths who have passed their driving test and then within six months have crashed their car.

"It's amazing how many kids have written their cars off up to the age of 25. The good thing with our local youth is they have no bad habits yet and they are therefore easier to coach."

To find out more go to https://www.scotborders.gov.uk/info/20015/your_council/845/drivewise_borders/2