Driving home the importance of safety to kids

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Former British Touring Car Champion John Cleland has called for a safe driving course to be added to the education curriculum for Borders children as young as 11.

He was talking this weekend after sponsoring an event, hosted by IAM Roadsmart, which saw 68 11-17-year-olds got behind the wheel.

Mr Cleland said: “This event was the first of its kind in Scotland and our aim is to make this the start of many that might help make our youngsters better drivers and cut down on road accident fatalities.

“Our long-term aim would be to get this activity added to the education curriculum and train the youngsters in the enjoyment they can get from driving, and cut down the dangers by making them more aware and alert behind the wheel.”

The Borders under-17 driving day allowed youngsters drive a car, off the main road, with expert tuition.

The event was supported by more than 30 volunteer instructors from local emergency services, and gave each participant five hours’ driving, one-to-one.

Starting off with the basics of car control, the attendees developed their skills over the day, working up to braking and understanding safety systems, as well as a test of their handling ability, through a slow speed slalom.

The event was also attended by MSPs John Lamont, Rachael Hamilton and Paul Wheelhouse, as well as MP Calum Kerr, whose 14-year-old daughter Eleanor took part.

One of the participants, 16-year-old Daniel Paterson, said: “I really enjoyed my driving experience. I feel I learnt a lot about vehicle control and handling, and it was great to try out different make/models of cars, especially the Jaguar XE.

“What 16-year-old ever gets the opportunity to say that?”

“It was a great day and a relaxing atmosphere. When I told all my mates they were all really interested in trying this for themselves.”

And IAM RoadSmart operations director, Pat Doughty, said: “Anyone who ever doubts the value of pre-licence driver education needs to see it in action.

“You cannot fail to be moved by the level of skill young people develop quickly when you do the right training.