Dorset County Council has stepped up efforts to cut the number of local road casualties by offering hundreds more driver 'refresher' sessions for the public - including some for free.
There are six district or borough councils, the county council and two unitary authorities in Dorset with a population of 700,400 in 1994.
The council has become one of only a handful of UK shire authorities to sign the European Commission's Road Safety Charter, pledging its commitment to a Europe-wide campaign promoting safer driving.
Over the next three years, Dorset's road safety team wants at least 3,000 local motorists to take advantage of the expert advice provided by an approved driving instructor during informal, one-hour assessments. There will be a cost for some of the sessions, including those for mini-bus and taxi drivers. But - thanks to a grant from Dorset Fire and Rescue Service - some courses for parents will be provided free of charge, on a first-come, first-served basis.
After signing the official charter, county council deputy leader Angus Campbell took part in one of the refresher sessions, along the A35, to experience the benefits first-hand.
Mr. Campbell, who is also cabinet member for highways, said the drive was extremely useful. He explained:
"Over time you tend to take your own driving for granted and it is good to have another look. You can understand how to drive more safely, and also how to defend yourself from the errors of others - as well as learning how to handle the difficult road situations which can present themselves on any road at any time.
I have no hesitation in recommending a refresher session to any Dorset driver and, if this is taken up widely, I am convinced it will make the county a safer place for all of us."
County council road safety team leader Robert Smith said:
"The council's charter pledge is to provide opportunities for at least 1,000 Dorset drivers to improve their driving standards every year for the next three years. We have developed award-winning driver refresher courses that aim to improve hazard spotting and defensive driving skills and knowledge in a friendly, non-threatening way. We now aim to widen availability of these courses in order to meet this challenge."
The European Road Safety charter has so far been signed by more than 220 organisations across Europe, with Dorset County Council being one of only four English shire authorities to commit to its pledge. More than 40,000 people are killed and more than 1.7 million injured every year on the roads of Europe, and the charter aims to share road safety expertise and best practice in an effort to reduce this casualty toll.
Anyone wishing to take part in a driver refresher session should contact the county council's road safety team: Tel: +44 01305 224558 or Email: firstname.lastname@example.org