POLICE in Avon and Somerset have launched a free new driving course particularly aimed at making young motorists safer on the region’s roads.

The force is offering up to 6,000 places on the driving awareness sessions, which will emphasise the dangers of drinking and driving, encourage slower speeds and point out potentially fatal distractions in and outside the car.

The Road Smart course has been launched in response to annual figures which show 452 people were killed or seriously injured on roads in Avon and Somerset between 2012 and 2013, with around on third from the 17 to 24-year-old age category.

Superintendent Ian Smith said: “Those figures reflect national trends and there is a disproportionate group of young people we are worried about.

“The sessions are open to anyone who drives but we are particularly welcoming young people.

“Although they reach a level of competence at their driving test, they don’t have any driving or life experience and statistics show one in five new drivers will crash in the first six months.

“Road crashes are also the biggest killer of young people in the UK.”

He said the interactive, two-hour workshops will enhance people’s driving skills, teach them how to avoid a collision and cover at hazard recognition and appropriate speeds for different types of roads.

Rowan Webber, 19, took part in a pilot session and said it has left her feeling much safer behind the wheel.

“I felt confident when I passed my test two years ago but I still had worries about what I would do in certain situations,” she said.

“I wish I had done the course earlier really as I am a better driver now, it was really enjoyable and I learned how to deal with peer pressure on drinking and driving and that it can take a long time to come out of your system.”

The courses, which will be split into age categories for 24s and under and 25s and over, have been paid for by surplus funds from the force’s mobile speed enforcement unit.

Added Supt Smith: “Drivers who are breaking the law are paying for the courses. It is a brilliant way to trying to improve safety.

“If we can save one life or prevent one serious injury then it will be worth it.”

Courses start at the end of April and will run in various locations across Avon and Somerset for a year. To sign up for a place visit www.roadsmart.org