The Young Driver Challenge 2015 launches this week and is backed by the Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM). It offers 11-16 year olds the chance to show their skills behind the wheel of a car.
The challenge took place for the first time in 2014, with hundreds of entries from around the country. Accelerating to the top, the eventual winners were named as Hannah Tripp, aged 13 from Cheddar in Somerset, and Troy Hickling, aged 16, from Leicester.
Run by Young Driver, the UK's largest provider of under-17 driving lessons, the challenge aims to encourage youngsters to consider responsible and safe driving, with top marks given to those who show the best levels of control and awareness. It is backed by the IAM and motoring expert and presenter Quentin Willson.
Entries can be made until the end of July and the 40 top scorers will be invited to a final event to be held in the Midlands in September. Drivers are assessed during a lesson at any of Young Driver's 28 venues, and marked according to strict criteria on their driving skills and manoeuvres, including parallel parking, figures of eight, turn in the road, steering, judgement and positioning.
Participants complete the second part of the test after their lesson via the Goodyear Driving Academy, an online driving simulator which tests a youngsters' knowledge of the Highway Code.
The top prizes on offer include 20 Young Driver lessons, 20 'on the road' post-17 driving lessons courtesy of Goodyear, a Young Driver at School session for the winner and their classmates and £500 off a car insurance premium courtesy of Young Driver sponsor Admiral. There will also be a special Admiral Award for the young driver who shows the best attitude, with a £200 cash prize.
The Young Driver scheme was set up in 2009 with the aim of creating safer newly qualified drivers. Currently in the UK, one in five new drivers has an accident within six months of passing their test and road traffic accidents account for 25 per cent of all the deaths of 15-19 year olds. Every year 400 people are killed in accidents involving young drivers. Yet, independent research shows that Young Driver past-pupils have 50 per cent less accidents than other novice drivers.
Kim Stanton, who runs the Young Driver scheme, said: "The Young Driver Challenge was a huge success last year. The final event included 40 youngsters who all demonstrated a driving ability well beyond their years, and I think people would be stunned to see how good they are.
"The aim of Young Driver has always been to create a safer next generation of drivers. We need to teach youngsters over a longer period of time, to give them a more thorough understanding and ample experience. Research actually shows that road safety messages are better absorbed by children in their early teens rather than at driving age. So the Young Driver Challenge gives us a great opportunity to talk to more youngsters about safe driving, and to show the general public just how good these young drivers can be, given the proper tuition. We look forward to seeing this year's entries!"
Mark Lewis, director of standards at the IAM, said: "I was very impressed with the standard of driving displayed by the young drivers last year and the final went to a tense tie-breaker. All who attended had a good day and I heard lots of stories from proud parents and grandparents about how the young drivers have made them change their driving habits for the better.
"Every young person who undertakes this training is potentially setting themselves up for a lifetime of safe driving. I'm looking forward to seeing the standard being maintained this year and a sunny final event like last year will be the icing on the cake!"
Quentin Willson, Transport Campaigner, added: "The Young Driver Challenge recognises and celebrates how early tuition can make a generation of novice drivers safer on our roads. I'm extremely proud to support these awards."
For more information about the challenge, or to book a Young Driver lesson, please log on to www.youngdriver.eu or call 0844 371 9010