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Last Updated: Wednesday, 25 January 2006, 14:16 GMT
Free lessons for 'white van men'
Transport Secretary Alistair Darling
Alistair Darling said all motorists could improve their driving
The government is to spend 1.3m on providing driving lessons for some of the UK's 200,000 van drivers, to make them more considerate behind the wheel.

They will also teach "white van man" - the stereotype aggressive driver - how to reduce fuel consumption by using the right gears and better braking.

Launching the scheme, Transport Secretary Alistair Darling said he had been "driven mad" by bad van drivers.

The Transit Van Owners' Club welcomed the move to improve driving.

Mr Darling said: "I think I've been driven mad on a number of occasions."

However, he said all motorists could improve their driving.

"If we can persuade the driving population as a whole to drive better, you'll get a cleaner, safer, cheaper drive, and that must be a good thing."

Environmental savings

The Safe And Fuel Efficient Driving Scheme will pay for the training of 200 instructors to teach advanced van driving techniques - and will then fund lessons for 3,500 drivers.

The Department for Transport said annual savings of up to 500 in fuel costs per van and a quarter of a tonne of carbon could be made by using techniques such as a better use of gears, keeping correct distances from the vehicle in front, and better road awareness.

Peter Lee from the Transit Van Owners' Club said he welcomed the idea.

He said it was worrying that people could take their driving test in a smaller vehicle but then buy a van which "is five, six times bigger than the car you've passed your test in, and you can just jump in and drive away, having no experience of driving a van at all".

However, Paul Smith of road safety campaign group Safespeed said: "White van man poses less risk to pedestrians than even cyclists and is one of the very safest road user groups."

In response, the Department for Transport said the lessons were entirely voluntary and more about saving people money and reducing carbon emissions, than safety.

The courses can be accessed through the scheme's website or by phoning 0870 190 8440.

White van man speaks
11 Aug 05 |  Magazine
Transit's 40th birthday journey
17 Jul 05 |  England

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