TWO Huntingdon driving instructors, concerned about the growing number of young road victims, have decided to take our Drive Safe message into the classroom.

TWO Huntingdon driving instructors, concerned about the growing number of young road victims, have decided to take our Drive Safe message into the classroom.

Chris Freemantle and Neil Hindle set up Project 15 Plus two years ago after having a chat over coffee.

The pair were appalled by the lack of support for youngsters before they get behind the wheel aged 17 as provisional drivers.

They wanted to find a way to instill basic driving skills and road safety awareness at a younger age and came up with Project 15 Plus, an eight-week course which provides youngsters with practical and theoretical experience of driving.

It has been pioneered at St Peter's School, Huntingdon, where a road network, complete with roundabouts and junctions, has been painted on to the playground.

Mr Hindle, 36, said: "Youngsters do not get taught how the car works and what effects peer pressures could have on you. So we put together a package of our own.

"We cover it in a completely different way, combining driving and road safety. We are trying to get the message across early.

"The roads are getting busier. Where can you go with a pupil to teach them how to drive safely?

"At St Peter's School they can drive safely without having to worry about anything else. So when they get to 17, they understand what they need to do to be safer."

The pair have worked with Year 12 and Year 13 pupils at St Peter's for the past year, as well as members of the school's Inspire group, made up of teens at a high risk of exclusion.

Although many Inspire pupils struggle to attend lessons, for the Project 15 Plus course there was 100 per cent attendance.

Among the issues discussed are peer pressure, drink-driving, drug-driving, mobiles, tiredness and road rage.

Mr Hindle said: "In one of the lessons we get them to wear beer goggles - bottle tops made into glasses that make everything seem strange.

"We then get them to do a police sobriety test. Things like 'Can you pick a key up on the floor? Can you walk in a straight line?'

"It alters their mindset. At the end we ask them 'Would you now get in a car with someone who was drunk?'"

Students also undertake the Driving IQ course, a computer software program, to identify hazards and discuss the potential risks.

Mr Freemantle, 32, said: "It is something they can do at home and over a long period of time."

Head of the Inspire group Mick Ford said: "Chris and Neil's rapport with the youngsters and the way they listened and spoke to them was fantastic."

The pair are hoping to roll out their project to other schools, and have teamed up with the Hunts Post's Drive Safe - Save A Life campaign.

INFORMATION: If you would like the Drive Safe - Save a Life campaign to visit your school or if you would like to get involved, e-mail editor@huntspost.co.uk. For more information on Project Plus 15 go to www.project15plus.co.uk