It is a Sunday morning and a group of young people are gathered round a table in a warehouse in Tweedbank, all looking a little pensive, it has to be said.
These are the latest recruits to the Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM) course, aimed at cutting the number of serious injuries and deaths involving young drivers on the region’s roads, and all are due to sit their final test this afternoon.
The scheme, for under 26-year-olds, is being run free of charge thanks to £48,000 of funding from Scottish Borders Council. It began earlier this year and is supported by Galashiels businessman and former British Touring Car champion John Cleland.
Chatting to the young people before they head out for their final lesson, I asked them whether they had found the course useful.
Sean Sharp was enthusiastic, saying: “There’s no doubt it’s made me a better driver, and I’m hoping to be able to get cheaper insurance on the back of having done this course”
Saphire Oswald echoed his thoughts and added: “I’m a more patient driver and think more about what I’m doing, and I’m more aware of what other drivers are doing.”
Sarah McLeod decided to sign up to further her career.
She said: “I’m training to be a family support worker and this is about safety. I wanted to do the course so that my employer knows that when I have clients in my car I take their safety seriously. I want to make sure my driving is as good as it possibly can be.”
But the course isn’t all hard work, as Ross Thomson told me: “It’s good fun. I’ve really enjoyed myself, as well as improving my driving and observation skills.”
Following their final lesson, the young drivers all head out with a test instructor. And all seven return with huge smiles on their faces, having passed the advance driver course. A 100 per cent pass rate.
A delighted Paul Richardson, SBC’s community safety officer, told me: “I am delighted that more young people have taken the fantastic opportunity to improve their driving skills for free.
“This course is leading the way in Scotland and I have had contact from two other local authorities who are keen to follow SBC and attempt to cut the number of accidents involving young people on their rural roads.”
Sitting the IAM advanced driver course usually costs £149, but council backing means it is free of charge and also offers the driver potentially cheaper car insurance, as well as free RAC roadside and recovery assistance for 12 months.
Pat Doughty, operations director at IAM, said: “This innovative partnership with Scottish Borders Council is delivering young drivers with greater awareness, improved skills and more confidence
“It is great to see more successful graduates and we look forward to seeing further young people become advanced drivers as the scheme continues.”
Anyone wishing to sign up can visit www.iam.org.uk/skillforlife or phone on 0300 303 1137. Further information is also available at www.scotborders.gov.uk/skillforlife.