The DSA (Driving Standards Agency) and The Caravan Club have urged those motorists returning to caravanning this summer to take a caravan or motorhome training course.

Figures released by the Caravan Club show bookings are up 40% this year as recession hit Brits return to caravanning for their summer holiday as opposed to more expensive breaks.

The DSA’s Chief Driving Examiner, Trevor Wedge, said “Anyone who has not towed a caravan for a number of years should make sure they are familiar with any changes that may have taken place before they get in the driver’s seat. Handling, manoeuvring and vision is different for a driver when towing”.

Both caravan and motorhome training courses are being offered by the Caravan Club to new members and those existing members returning to caravanning.

The DSA and the Caravan Club are also advising those motorists returning to caravanning to check the list below:

1. If a driver passed their test before 1997, they will be allowed to drive any car, and tow any caravan (weighing up to a combined maximum allowable mass of 8250kg).

But for drivers who passed their test after January 1997 there are additional restrictions and they may need to take a further driving test in order to tow the largest car/caravan outfits.

2. Caravans have tended to become heavier over the years. Drivers must make sure their car and caravan are an appropriate match or their combination could be unsafe or even illegal.

3. Drivers must make sure they are familiar with new technology features, such as stability control systems.

4. Drivers must check their car and caravan electrical connector and find an adaptor if the connectors are not the same at each end.

Those readers interested in taking the Caravan Club towing training course can find out more here.

The Road-S-Kill project has been launched for learner drivers in East Yorkshire by the Humberside Fire and Rescue Service, Safer Roads Humber and local driving schools.

The project aims to reduce injury and death on the regions roads by giving learner drivers about to take their driving test a series of hard hitting presentations and videos on the dangers they face when on the road.

Subjects include the dangers of driving with loud music on, drink driving, not wearing a seatbelt and speeding.

Steve Harrison, road safety officer for the fire service and founder of the Roads-S-Kill project said, “This is potentially the biggest thing the fire service can do to improve road safety in the region”.

Steve continued, “There are up to 300 new drivers on the roads in the area at any one time, so if we can get the message through to some of them, then that would be a massive achievement”.

The first presentation was delivered to a group of learner drivers from the Hull-based Elite Driving School.

The session also included interviews with relatives of youngsters who had been killed in road collisions.

Learner driver Aidan Wilby, 17, said: “I thought the presentation was really useful. It made me more aware of the effects playing loud music can have on your driving and I’ll definitely be more careful”.

Hairdresser Rayah Knight, 19, of Hessle, said: “It definitely made me think about some things I hadn’t considered before and I’ll make sure I always put a seatbelt on whenever I’m in a car”.

The RAC Foundation has also backed the campaign.

Year four pupils at Milford Junior School in Yeovil have received hands on driving lessons as part of a road safety morning conducted by PCSO Catherine Heylar of Avon and Somerset police.

The morning session involved pupils driving a battery powered car around an off-road circuit in order to get an understanding of the road from a drivers perspective.

There were also talks on crossing the road and the importance of booster seats.

Commenting on the event, PCSO Catherine Heylar said: “This was a really good event and the children were really enthusiastic. They asked lots of questions and took a real interest in what we were telling them. I think they enjoyed the driving part most as it is good fun and they forget they are learning at the same time”.

Catherine continued, “It is important to introduce road safety at an early age and to build on that as children grow up. I am pleased that we are able to offer this experience to children in Yeovil and I am confident that it will help local children to stay safe on and near the roads”.

The battery powered cars were provided by Jumicar, a scheme that provides fun and educational driving activities for children.

A new survey from the AA has found that many of its instructors think the US President Barack Obama would make one of the best driving instructors.

Obama’s strong leadership skills were one of the key qualities admired by the AA’s instructors.

TV presenter Fern Britton and actors Sir Roger Moore and Stephen Fry were also thought to have the right blend of skills and personality to give driving lessons to pupils.

Stuart Vaughan, an independent driving instructor providing driving lessons in Portsmouth, amongst other South coast areas, agreed, saying, “Obama would make a perfect driving instructor, he has natural confidence and calmness, together with strong leadership and direction.”

The DVLA has told BBC Radio 1 Newsbeat that nearly 50% of drivers banned since October 2008 have not re-taken their driving test.

It is against the law to start driving again if you are banned within the first 2 years of driving – unless you have re-sat and passed a driving test. This is a fact not known by many people when they receive their driving licence back from the courts.

This means that many young people, in particular, are driving again illegally, which is a great concern to Road Safety Groups.

Edmund King from the AA said, “It’s naive to think that all these drivers just disappear and jump on the bus, they don’t, many of them are still driving”.

Edmund continued, “I think this is a major problem, but perhaps it’s a problem that the authorities aren’t really aware about”.

Stuart Vaughan from Driving School Lessons, the driving instructor franchise specialist, said “It would make more sense for the courts to send banned drivers an advice letter, rather than their driving licence, informing them of the need to re-sit and pass their driving test”. “Their driving licence could then be sent once they had proved they had passed their test.”

The Department of Transport said there were no excuses for anyone to be driving without a valid license and those who did would face tough penalties.

Lewis Hamilton helped launch the first Mercedes-Benz driving lesson academy in Weybridge on Saturday 13th June.

In a lively question and answer interview session, the reigning Formula 1 world champion talked with youngsters about his own experience of learning to drive, before giving a precision driving display performance.

The Mercedes-Benz driving academy, which is set to revolutionise the way teenagers learn to drive by starting at a younger age, aims to coach its students to become good drivers, rather than just getting them to a level to pass their driving test.

Encouraging safer driving on the UK’s roads, the academy’s scheme has 3 modules for different age groups.

The Pre-Road module is for children aged 12 to 16, while the Provisional Licence module is for 17+ year olds and helps prepare them for their test. The Post-Test module is for those who have already passed their test.

Commenting on the launch, Peter O’Halloran, Mercedes-Benz World Marketing Director said: “Learning to drive should be like learning to play an instrument. The more practice you have the better you master it and the more confident you become.”

Peter continued, “With Mercedes-Benz, students start learning to drive at a younger age, which removes the stress of passing the actual driving test. In addition, the Mercedes-Benz Driving Academy provides young people with the skills and thought-based experiences that go beyond the requirements of just passing the test.”

“It will prepare them for the actual demands of driving on the public roads, making them better and safer drivers when they have their licence.”

The academy not only offers practical on the road tuition, it also provides off‐road practice, self‐evaluation, risk assessment and peer group discussion seminars. Parent sessions are also available to teach parents how to be the best possible in‐car advisors.

Interested readers can find out more at the Mercedes-Benz driving lesson academy website.

A learner driver in Croydon has made the news after finally passing her driving test 15 years after her first driving lesson.

According to This Is Local London, Andrea Whyte took her first lesson in 1994 and has since spent nearly £1,600 on 85 hours of driving lessons over the years.

Commenting on her success, Mrs Whyte said she had years of “poor driving instruction” with instructors who would “talk incessantly about home life and family issues, or regularly cancel lessons at the last minute”.

That was before she started lessons with instructor Andrew Bare, who, in 6 months, developed Mrs Whyte’s driving skills & confidence culminating in her pass.

Mr Bare said: “The moment Andrea got in the car with me she told me about her previous experience. “I asked her to show me her driving and I identified the main issue was with her confidence in her driving ability due to so many years of instruction, yet never being put forward for her test.”

Mrs Whyte is now looking forward to having the freedom to visit her friends and family without relying on the need for public transport.

The Sussex Safer Roads Partnership (SSRP) is offering new drivers in Sussex a free driving lesson voucher to help them stay safe on the county’s roads.

The free driving lesson voucher is available on a first come first served basis to new drivers based in Sussex that are aged between 17 and 25. Applicants must have passed their driving test within the last 3 months.

Neil Hopkins, Communications Manager for the Partnership, said: “While driving tuition covers most road types and conditions, learners aren’t permitted on motorways and don’t often get the chance to take up evening/night time tuition”.

Neil continued, “The extra lesson will cover some of these topics and so give drivers an extra skills boost.”

The driving lessons are being delivered by BSM across Sussex with the vouchers being valid for 3 months from their date of issue.

The free driving lesson vouchers can be requested by emailing Communications@SussexSaferRoads.gov.uk. One voucher is issued per driver.

New taxi drivers in Durham will now have to undergo an assessment by the Driving Standards Agency (DSA) before they are granted a licence to drive a taxi.

The assessment, set at a higher standard than the normal driving test for learner drivers, will involve DSA examiners assessing the taxi drivers ability in a ‘real’ driving environment, including special taxi manoeuvres.

The DSA’s Chief Operating Officer, Brian Gilhooley, said: “We are delighted that Durham County Council has decided to introduce this assessment as driving a taxi carries a great deal of responsibility.”

Successful taxi drivers will receive a certificate of competence which shows they can drive and carry passengers in safety and comfort.

The taxi tests are being carried out at Bishop Auckland, Darlington, Longbenton and Middlesbrough driving test centres.

Over 120 councils throughout the UK have already agreed to undertake taxi driver assessment.

The Sussex Safer Roads Partnership (SSRP) is offering new drivers in Sussex £60 cashback if they complete a Pass Plus course and a locally-run workshop.

Pass Plus is a training course for new drivers which has been compiled by the Driving Standards Agency, with help from the driving instruction industry and selected UK insurance companies – who offer cheaper car insurance for drivers who have completed Pass Plus.

The course consists of six practical training session modules which cover driving in town, in all weathers, on rural roads, at night, on dual carriageways and on motorways. New drivers can take it at any time within the first 12 month of passing their test.

There is no test at the end of Pass Plus, instead a pupil’s driving will be continually assessed with each module requiring successful completion to an achieved or exceeded standard.

Pass Plus lessons are booked through Pass Plus registered instructors, a list of which can be found on the www.passplus.org.uk website.

To qualify for the £60 cashback, new drivers in Sussex must show they have completed the course, then attend a 2 hour workshop run by the Sussex Safer Roads Partnership (SSRP).

The workshops, held at locations across Sussex, cover a range of topics including why people speed, drinking and driving, causes of crashes and defensive driving.

Emma Rogers, SSRP Communications Manager said: “Young people are a particularly vulnerable driver group in Sussex – a disproportionate number are involved in crashes, compared to the amount of young drivers actually on our roads. Many certainly have the confidence to drive well, but it’s the inexperience that lets them down”.

“If they were involved in an incident that could lead to a crash, they wouldn’t know what to do. It’s also true that young drivers, particularly males, like to show off to their girlfriends and peers, which can lead to faster driving and tragic consequences”.

Emma continues, “284 young people between 17 and 25 years were killed or seriously injured on Sussex roads in 2006. This is far too many, and if we can help by encouraging more people to attend the Pass Plus scheme and our workshop by offering £60 cashback, and getting them a bit more training both on the roads and about driving attitudes, we may well be able to prevent some of this carnage”.

For more information, readers can download the information leaflet and booking form from the www.sussexsaferroads.gov.uk website under ‘campaigns’.