Wednesday, November 21, 2012
One in five new drivers has a crash within six months of passing their test.
But as winter approaches, young drivers are being urged to get to grips with driving in bad weather conditions by taking part in a Tread driving course.
Tread courses, which are run by Norfolk County Council and backed by Norfolk Police, were launched in January.
Aimed at people aged between 17 and 25 and new drivers, the course is a series of practical sessions focused on driving in snow, ice and heavy rain and caring for your car.
To see what you can learn from the sessions I joined skid driver trainer Kevin O’Brien at Tibenham Airfield.
I was looking forward to the course. Shortly after I passed my driving test when I was 17, I skidded on ice and did not know how to react.
Kevin uses a control box to release hydraulic fluid into pistons on the outrigger wheels, reducing the contact between the tyres and the ground and causing a skid effect.
Driving along the runway to a coned area to practise the skids, Kevin caused the car to spin, to demonstrate how terrifying the experience can be and how difficult is it to control the car when you skid at speed.
During the course, I learnt how to recognise the signs of understeer and oversteer and how to react.
Light steering can be a sign of an understeer and to control a skid, I was taught to put my foot on the clutch, come off the accelerator and steer into the skid.
Oversteer can be felt by the back of the car sliding out and to counteract it, Kevin said to hold the clutch down and steer away.
During the training, which lasted an hour, I did not drive faster than 30mph. At speed, skids would be even more difficult to control.
Kevin’s main message to get across to young drivers is to kill their speed. If you are driving at a slower speed, it becomes easier to react to potential crashes.
Much to the delight of my mother I will definitely drive slower during bad weather.
According to figures from road safety charity, Brake, an 18-year-old driver is more than three times as likely to be involved in a crash as a 48-year-old.
Sally Plail, driver and rider development manager at Norfolk County Council, said that the course was created after a series of focus groups were held.
“We wanted to engage with young drivers,” she said. “When we held the focus groups we found that people wanted to do something with their friends.”
Tread courses also teach young drivers the basics surrounding car maintenance.
Mrs Plail said: “We have designed six workshops for the new drivers. They cover winter driving and tyre treads, we go through checks that they should do such as fluid levels.”
There is also a session where the drivers bring their own cars and they are taught practical skills such as locating a jack and changing a wheel. There is also a workshop on how people can legally modify their cars.”
The Tread course, which is held at seven locations across the county, also stresses hazard perception and how to avoid potential dangers before they have happened. The course also covers issues faced by young drivers such as peer pressure and using a mobile phone while driving.
For more information or to sign up to the course, contact Sally Plail on 01603 638121 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. The course costs £25 and gift vouchers are available. For more information see www.think.norfolk.gov.uk