Magazine article The Spectator

A Driving Force

Magazine article The Spectator

A Driving Force

Article excerpt

Most Spectator readers share the gripe that we live in a nanny state. So it is bewildering that, in an age when health and safety czars issue edicts forbidding children to play conkers, nothing has been done in schools to address the biggest threat to young people of all -- our roads.

In the last four years the death rate among young drivers has more than doubled, and every hour a person under 25 is killed or seriously injured in a traffic accident. Despite these harrowing statistics, the current driving test still does not require people to drive in hazardous weather, on motorways or at night, when most young drivers crash. While the government has implemented Personal Health and Social Education in schools to tackle sex, drugs and alcohol, nothing is being done about driving -- yet far more young people die annually in car crashes than from drugs.

It took Nick Rowley, a young father of three boys, to spot the gap in the market after listening to the headmaster of Winchester talk about preparing his pupils for life. 'I realised my son might get a wonderful education in history and French or whatever but the one thing that might take him away from me would be a car crash, and no amount of A grades could prevent that, ' says Rowley. He immediately set about founding the a2om academy, Britain's first university-affiliated driving school. Its trendy acronym stands for 'alpha to omega motoring' and the academy is set to revolutionise the way our children learn to drive.

Behind a2om's approach is the belief that it is behaviour and attitude that cause accidents rather than lack of technical skill. For example, boys drive dangerously when there are girls in the car and not because they can't execute a three-point turn. In association with Cranfield University, a2om is the first driving school to use psychometry (measuring behaviour) in its teaching. Again ahead of anyone else, a2om is also using neuroscience to accelerate the development rate of the frontal lobe, the crucial part of the brain that can anticipate risk, which doesn't normally mature till the age of 24.

It's not as complicated as it sounds, insists Rowley. 'We are simply taking all the best practices globally and fusing them into one curriculum -- if you like, the Oxbridge of driving instruction. …

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