'Rev heads' teaching kids to drive
By MARY MANN GEOFF McCLELLAND thinks he has the answer to reducing young driver deaths on North Coast roads.
The Leeville father of three has opened a new off-road driver training school called Rev Heads, for children as young as 10.
Mr McClelland, a self-confessed rev head, says it is a safe way of breeding a generation of better drivers.
However, his methods have been questioned by Rob Wells, the father of one of the four boys who died in a car accident near Broken Head last year.
Mr Wells told The Northern Star the off-road training risked giving young drivers a false sense of confidence, which could lead to tragedy.
"What young drivers need is to learn in structured, practical driving situations on real roads, not artificial situations," said Mr Wells, head of the NSW Government's Young Drivers Advisory Panel.
"In the real world it won't work."
However, Mr McClelland is adamant his school will reduce the young driver death toll.
"When I hear of another tragedy on our roads where young drivers have died I just shake my head," he said.
"I can't say this training will stop the deaths altogether, but I really think we can cut the toll dramatically."
Mr McClelland admits to having driven like a 'maniac' when he was a youngster.
"You can't stop kids from being idiots, there's always that adrenalin you get from driving a car," he said.
"But I survived because I knew what to do. I do not advocate hooning, but if you teach them how to handle situations, they'll be okay."
Driving instructor Cyril Wilson, of Independent Driver Training in Casino, will oversee Rev Heads, as Mr McClelland is not yet a qualified instructor.
"It is a great idea because it gives younger people more experience," he said.
"It means they're not just suddenly learning to drive on our roads when they're 16.
"I agree with Geoff and I expect the young driver accident rate to decrease if they go through this training."
Lismore dad Brian Hill took his 14-year-old son Brandon to the official opening of Rev Heads on Saturday.
"It lets them get a bit of that excitement out of their system," Mr Hill said.
"Brandon has done really well today and we'll be coming back so he can learn some more of the basics of driving off the road," Mr Hill said.
"It's important for them to feel confident and get a handle of the car before they tackle traffic."
Mr McClelland said the off-road training courses provided a safe place to teach youngsters to drive without breaking road rules or jeopardising the safety of others on the road.
There are three stages planned for Rev Heads. The first, which is now in place, allows youngsters to drive around a paddock with a supervising driver to get a handle on steering, braking and gears.
The second stage, to be up and running by the end of the year, will involve driving in conditions similar to a town. The third, to be ready by mid-next year, will be a defensive driving course.