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Monday, July 26, 1999 Published at 17:18 GMT 18:18 UK


Wills at the wheel

Special driving training for Prince William

Learning to mount the pavement without bursting your tyres - or recognising how to spot the threat of being followed are not skills which figure in your average teenager's driving lessons.

But it is understood that Prince William is being schooled in techniques to avoid hi-jack and threat from terrorists - as well as three-point-turns and emergency stops.

The 17-year-old prince introduced his police driving instructor Sgt Gilbert, to his father for the first time on Monday.

[ image: Prince William demonstrated his driving skills for the media]
Prince William demonstrated his driving skills for the media
Sgt Chris Gilbert, of Scotland Yard's Hendon driving school is a class one police driver with 30 years experience - and has also taught anti-hijack and counter surveillance driving techniques.

Scotland Yard says the choice of Hendon for the young prince to hone his driving skills is "entirely appropriate" because it offers both quality and security.

After all, it would not really be practical to have an heir to the realm practising reversing around corners on an estate road, while his body guards and security entourage looked on.

It is likely that the arrangements for Prince William's test will also take place in a similar high security environment.

"It is extremely important that certain people learn defensive driving skills, and some VIPs such as members of the Royal Family would have to learn what are essentially anti-terrorist driving techniques," said Kenny Roberts, course director and designer for ATC, a specialist driving training company.

[ image: How most teenagers learn to drive]
How most teenagers learn to drive
Mr Roberts said Prince William's level of driver training would be likely to look at two areas of risk.

He said: "There is the mobile risk - a risk to a driver as he or she is actually driving along, and there is stationary risk - the risk of being stopped by a roadblock or diversionary tactics.

"A lot can be done to train a driver - be it a chauffeur or the VIP themselves, to recognise the warning signs that they may be being followed.

"If they can establish that they may be being followed, then they can take preventative action to stop that person coming up alongside them. If, however, something does come up alongside them, there are further tactics they can learn to avoid the danger.

"Manoeuvres we may teach to avoid stationary threats include handbrake turns, and reverse flicks.

"A reverse kick involves kicking the car backwards at high speed with a view to turning it on its axis."

But he stressed that "prevention is always better than cure" and that a good half of any defensive driving course would be taken up with counter surveillance.

[ image: Learning special manoeuvres at ATC's training ground]
Learning special manoeuvres at ATC's training ground
He added: "A terrorist or kidnapper is going to look for the weakest point in your security.

"Attacks on VIPs and kidnappings are always meticulously planned. An organisation will watch day after day to chart their targets, habits and routes that they take.

"Counter surveillance means assessing all the weak points where a person may be vulnerable, and strengthening them, and also instructing that person in how to recognise if those points have been breached."

ATC currently has contracts to train drivers for two UK government agencies, and also instructs drivers for corporations and businesses.

Hendon trains drivers for the EEC, the RAF, Japanese police forces and the US Navy.

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