As the summer approaches we are entering one of the busiest times of the year for young drivers across the district.
It is easy to see why many young drivers get nervous when learning to drive with accidents being reported on the roads almost every week.
But a Slinfold mother is aiming to reduce the number of crashes and improve new driver’s skills through a specially designed online programme, which is free to all.
Emma Gardner is the campaign director for the award winning road safety programme Drive iQ, designed to give extra support and guidance to people who are learning to drive.
The programme has been created by A2om International who develop driver education and assessment software for organisations such as Mercedes-Benz and the Ministry of Defence.
Millions of pounds worth of research has gone into the project and the company has worked closely with specialists to help recreate real life driving scenarios in a virtual world.
Emma said: “This software is so important, it could save a life. With all these accidents on the road something needs to be done.
“Road accidents are the biggest killer of young people, one in five drivers crash within the first six months of passing their test.
“The reason why I did this is I have a 12-year-old and an 11-year-old and I don’t want anything to happen to them.”
The programme is mainly aimed at young drivers aged between 16 and 25 .
Research conducted by A2om and independent specialists found the area of the brain responsible for anticipating danger and risk assessment is not fully developed until the age of 25.
Emma added: “That is why it is so dangerous and they are so vulnerable around that age.
“They think they are invincible and we are designed that way otherwise we would not survive.
“It is a biological fact and it is not their fault, we are designed to make mistakes.”
Drive iQ currently contains 32 different modules which focus on all aspects of driving and more are constantly being added.
But the programmes don’t just focus on the driver.
There are also modules which explain how important the passenger can be.
Emma said: “People think there is nothing they can do when they are a passenger but you can make sure the driver is absolutely focused on the road.
“They are just as responsible and can also affect the outcome of the journey.”
Emma’s main aim has been to make sure every school in the country signs up to Drive iQ and uses the free modules in lessons.
She explained: “Driving is not part of the curriculum it is an optional extra.
“Yet most people learn to drive when they are at school or college.
“The reason behind the software is to make sure youngsters know their stuff.
“They never talk about after you have passed your test so educate them before, so when they get out on the roads they are fully equipped.
“I would love every school in the country to get in touch, take on the software themselves and show it to their children.
“Plus it is a great bargain, it is not as if you have to pay for it, it’s free.”
The online programme was first launched at the College of Richard Collyer, in Horsham, more than five years ago by former MP Francis Maude and members of the emergency services.
Since then the Drive iQ campaign has received the backing of many emergency service organisations as well as support from local authorities and celebrities including BBC presenters Sophie Morgan and Gary Lineker.
More than 1,000 schools across the country use the Drive iQ software including The Weald Community School and Sixth Form College in Billingshurst, and Hurstpierpoint College.
Tom Backshall, head of sixth form at the Weald spoke about the importance of the programme.
He said:“By the time they leave the sixth form most of our students will either be learning to drive or will have already passed their test and be driving their own cars.
“For young people this offers an exciting opportunity to be more independent. However, no one can fail to be aware of the risks that drivers, and particularly young drivers, face on the roads.
“At the Weald Sixth Form we make road safety awareness a key part of our Personal Development programme.
“Students attend a major road safety awareness event each year organised by the Fire Service and other emergency services and we use Drive IQ resources to ensure that students engage with road safety issues in a meaningful and interactive way.”
Ronald White head teacher at Hurstpierpoint agreed.
He said: “Drive IQ is great for our pupils to use as it is in a game style which keeps them interested.
“It helps users anticipate the multitude of hazards that can appear when driving in real life.
“The Drive iQ team introduced the software to our pupils and they have found it very useful.”
But the software is not just aimed at schools and Emma has encouraged young people and parents to go online and download it themselves especially as we enter the summer.
She said: “This is by far the most dangerous time for them as most are going to learn to drive this summer. It is a lethal term.
“We have lost four or five teenagers in this village over the last four years at this time of year due to road accidents.”
She also recommended experienced drivers have a go at the programme and use it to refresh their driving skills.
Chris Arnold, 17, from Loxwood, has just started learning to drive and said the programme was very helpful.
He said: “It is great. I have started driving already and used other programmes like this. It is really good especially with the extra feature like the mirrors you are not just concentrating on one action. This is probably one of the better ones I have used.”
Emily Burgin, 17, from Wisborough Green, agreed.
She said: “I think it’s good because having not driven a car it give me a realistic impression of what it would look like. It will also let you retry if you get it wrong which is something you would not be able to do in real life. I would definitely recommend it, I think it’s really fun.”
Adam Gardiner-Hill, 17, from Rudgwick, was particularly impressed with how the programme showed him what to do in dangerous situations on the road.
He said: “It portrays it in a really realistic way.
“It is really good for anyone thinking of driving in the near future and I would really recommend it.”
Josh Gribbian, 17,from Loxwood, agreed. He said: “I think it is very good. I think it can help teach you without you putting yourself in danger. You may not know what to do in a lot of these situations but you can learn without the risk.
“I think it is very useful and would recommend it for others.”
The software can be downloaded for free or schools can pick up a pack.
For more information visit www.driveiq.co.uk or email Emma at firstname.lastname@example.org
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