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Driving school aims to save lives

08 June 2007

A new science-led driving course believes it has found a solution to the growing problem of road deaths among young drivers - but it costs £2500 per pupil.

Government research into novice drivers suggests that a young person aged between 17 and 24 is killed or seriously injured in a road traffic accident every hour of the day and that the death rate among young drivers has doubled in the past five years.

A2om, an acronym that stands for Alpha to Omega Motoring and is pronounced 'atom', has teamed up with Cranfield University in the United Kingdom and Waikato University in New Zealand to produce a course that offers practical and theory lessons to address what it believes are the root problems of accidents among young drivers.

They say the worst problems are behavioural, rather than from any physical difficulty in driving a car, and that this is down to the development rate of the frontal lobe, the part of the brain that can anticipate risk and which normally matures around the age of 24.

By training young people in the potential risks before they happen, a2om's instructors hope they can prepare them to react in a more mature way. Lessons include courses on drink, drugs, peer pressure, first aid and how to maintain a car.

'We try to cover every eventuality and coach and educate the drivers in ways to react. There's no point just telling them what to do - they need to be made aware of the consequences of their actions,' said Gary Austin, former boss of the Driving Standards Agency, who heads A2om's training scheme.

Pupils spend around 60 hours behind the wheel of one of the school's Audi-provided A3s, receive five classroom lessons and tackle internet-based exercises. Because of these teaching methods and the course's cost, it is currently being phased in through public schools.

The course has already met with approval of insurer Royal & Sun Alliance, which is offering discounts to pupils that have taken the course - Austin estimates the average annual saving will be between £1000 and £2000 for a typical fully comprehensive policy for a 17-year-old.

The a2om group is also developing courses for older drivers, company car drivers and Premiership football clubs which will be available later this year.

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