So you’ve passed your test, got your licence, and you’re off. A qualified driver.
But is a few months training with an instructor enough to make you a totally safe driver?
The organisers of the MORE driving course believe people could do with a bit more information and experience to improve their driving and reduce the risk of accidents.
Across Bedfordshire, there are hundreds of road accidents, some fatal, a year. A high percentage of those are from the 17-to-30 age group, and these are the people being offered the chance to increase their driving skills.
Despite being long past this age group, I was invited to join the MORE driving course at Millbrook Proving Ground and be put through my paces.
The course is run in two sections – a series of indoor seminars followed by a chance to get in a car and have a spin on the famous Millbrook tracks.
I consider myself an experienced driver, but there was much to learn from the sessions which were given by police officers and council safety officers.
Firstly, we were given lots of advice and tips on how to avoid the pitfalls of buying a second hand car.
Key to any purchase is to carrying a HPI check, which will tell a potential new owner if the police are looking for the vehicle, or if there is any outstanding finance owed on the vehicle.
We were also told how to make sure the various registration marks, such as number plates and chassis numbers check with the log book, and how to spot forged documents (check the fonts and look for spelling mistakes!) and cars which may have been written off.
Once you have bought your car the next thing is to ensure it is roadworthy. The course covered basic checks and maintenance which all drivers should regularly carry out.
And as young people often like to customise their vehicles and the police were keen to point out there is a right and wrong way to do this, and the implications modifications might have on your insurance policy.
Perhaps the most important demonstration was a drink drive simulator, and the chance to see how impossible it is to use your mobile phone and maintain control over your vehicle.
The most sober part of the seminars was the talk which discussed accidents and deaths by poor driving. Statistically, a quarter of the people who die in crashes are aged 17 to 24 while a significant number of casualties are the passengers.
Images of the aftermath of accidents hopefully had an impact on the young drivers as the message to slow down and wear seatbelts was hammered home.
After being thoroughly brought down to earth with images of crushed vehicles, some of which represented the occupants’ final moments, we were taken to the track to practice skid control and experience the ABS brakes.
While this is obviously a serious subject, it was great fun to spin the car under the instructor’s expert eye and learn what to do when the front or back of you car slides out from under you. And to do an emergency stop at 50mph.
Young drivers Courtney Robinson, 18, and Charlie Swan, 17, took part in the day and said it was an invaluable experience and they would take the lessons with them to improve their driving.
Courtney, from Biggleswade, said: “We learnt a lot of things which were not covered in driving lessons, and I think should be part of the test.
“I think it would be very good for young men, as when they drive they can be a bit cocky.”
Charlie, from Aspley Guise, added: “Having seen the accident footage and statistics, I was not at all shocked as a lot of my friends are bad when they drive.
“Having done this course I would reduce my speed.”
While the 17-to-30 year olds were doing the course, there was a group of 16-year-olds who went through the sessions, but their track experience was to have their first driving lesson.
For their parents and carers, there was a presentation on how to choose a driving instructor, and what to expect new drivers to learn.
And so they were included in the fun stuff, they were treated to a white-knuckle, high-speed opportunity to be driven around the Millbrook test tracks by a professional rally driver.
MORE stands for motivation, observation, reaction and education, and the courses are funded by funded by Central Bedfordshire Council and Luton Borough Council.
Residents in those areas can join a course for free, people from other areas, such as Bedford borough, can pay £60.
The next MORE course is planned for March 2015. For more details go to http://tinyurl.com/morecourse
To view a video of Tracey practicing skidding and braking, go to