THE Hunts Post’s Drive Safe - Save a Life campaign message is being put into practice.

THE Hunts Post’s Drive Safe - Save a Life campaign message is being put into practice.

Earlier this month the emergency services and road safety organisations came together to launch Cambridgeshire Fire Rescue’s Drive 2 Arrive campaign with a day speaking to pupils at Hinchingbrooke School in Huntingdon.

Among the people giving advice and information was Paul Staple of Alconbury Driving Centre.

He knows better than most how teaching the rules of the road from a young age can save lives.

The driving centre was set up six years ago by the Cambridgeshire police Shrievalty Trust with the aim of cutting down on road deaths by promoting greater partnership between the community, police and other partners.

Using two classrooms and a stretch of abandoned runway at Alconbury airfield, centre manager Mr Staple and instructors Dennis Clarke, Alan Noades, John Smith and Joyce Roff have worked with hundreds of youngsters on driver awareness as part of the groundbreaking Programme 16 initiative.

Mr Staple said: “We teach them about road safety and the Highway Code, but also they get so much more out of it. They get confidence, self-esteem and a chance to work with other groups.”

Pupils from special schools, referral centres and mainstream schools have all signed up to the scheme.

Each two hour session is divided into one hour of theory in the classroom, followed by an hour of practical driving around the centre’s training circuit.

Complete with traffic lights, roundabout and junction lines, drivers get a chance to try out a host of manoeuvres, including emergency stops, in the centre’s dual-controlled car.

Every year one group is selected to take part in the Green Power - Electric Car Races for Schools competition.

This year pupils from Castle Special School in Cambridge will be designing and developing their own electric-powered car, which they will race against other entries in a regional heat.

Pupils of Samuel Pepys School in St Neots have been visiting the centre for the past three years and are full of praise for the course.

As well as learning road safety theory, the pupils, most of whom have special educational needs, have experienced night-time driving and recently took part in a mock-incident where they were stopped by police and asked to produce a licence.

Sixteen-year-old Demi said: “It has taught us more awareness. We are going to be safer drivers.”

Teacher Des Storey of Ely Pupil Referal Unit has been visiting the centre with nine students aged 14 to 16 for a 10-week course on driver safety.

It is the first time pupils from the unit, many of whom have been excluded from mainstream education, have visited the centre, but six weeks into the course and it is already proving a hit.

Mr Storey said: “It has been the most positive thing we have done in the last few years.

“It has been really positive in terms of them changing their perception of driving and promoting good driving. It has been very different and good for our students.

“If this whole 10 week course stops one person getting involved in a collision, it will have been worth it.”

INFORMATION: To learn more about the centre go to www.alconburydrivingcentre.com or call 01480 457439.