*Watch a Jacob Mihaere put through his paces in the Holden StreetSmart course at Hampton Downs racetrack in the video player above*

It is not a proud record to keep holding on to – New Zealand continues to have one of the highest number of youth deaths in car accidents, per capita, in the OECD. So are we sending our kids out on to the roads without enough skills to handle the hazards and challenging situations they’re likely to face in their driving lifetime?

Those young drivers are the target of a new hands-on skills programme aimed at halting the needless rise of youth fatalities on New Zealand roads.

The Holden StreetSmart programme – a $49 day-long course for young drivers yet to get a full licence – will roll out at five motorsport racetracks around the country in the April school holidays. 

New Zealand’s climbing road toll and alarming record of young driver crashes was the impetus behind Holden NZ creating the nationwide campaign. 

Kristian Aqulina, the managing director of Holden NZ, says New Zealanders should be “very angry” at the statistics, and learner driver education needs to change. “We’re doing something very practical to address what we believe is a gap between what it takes to tick the boxes and get a driver’s licence, and actually being safe on the road,” he says.The programme has been developed by road safety expert Peter Sheppard, and is fronted by New Zealand motor-racing legend Greg Murphy.

Driving on a racetrack provides a rare opportunity to learn vital skills – like how to avoid a head-on collision – in a controlled and safe environment. Drivers go through 10 practical exercises with experienced driving coaches, while a parent or guardian rides with them, sharpening their own road skills. 

Newsroom put young driver Jacob Mihaere through the Holden StreetSmart course on the Hampton Downs racetrack to see what he could take from the programme. 

* Holden StreetSmart is an initiative of Holden NZ – a Foundation Supporter of Newsroom.co.nz

Suzanne McFadden, the 2021 Voyager Media Awards Sports Journalist of the Year, founded LockerRoom, dedicated to women's sport.

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