With 23 years of police work under his belt, PC Euan Stewart has seen it all when things go wrong on the roads.
The veteran police officer has spent the last decade working with Tayside’s Road Policing Unit (RPU), attending everything from the smallest of shunts to fatal smashes – and he’s now putting his experience to good use with a scheme that aims to save young lives.
He said: “I’ve said at talks that accidents will happen as I’m speaking – and then gone back to the office to find there’s been a fatal crash. If I can speak to a room of 20 young people and help them to avoid having that crash, then I’ve done my job.”
Police Scotland’s New Driver Early Intervention Scheme involves officers speaking to learners and new drivers about building good habits for life early on.
PC Stewart is responsible for delivering the scheme in Tayside.
He said: “We know from experience that there’s a lot going on in a young person’s mind in a car – peer pressure, bravado, that feeling of having passed your test and that learning process stopping.
“Couple that with distractions like mobile phones and a general lack of experience and that can all contribute to more risk.”
Drivers in the 16-22 age group are more than twice as likely to be involved in a serious car crash as other road users in Scotland.
And 16 to 22-year-olds account for a fifth of all road casualties.
However, rather than simply lecturing youngsters on being safe, PC Stewart aims to make the meetings engaging.
He said: “I cover advanced driving techniques and aim to change the way they look at the roads.
“Journey planning should begin before you even get in the car – think about the time of year, the time of day, the weather, the types of vehicle, such as tractors during harvests in the October holidays.
“I encourage interaction and the young people are free to ask questions. I don’t just want to talk at them about driving safely.”
Since launching the scheme in Tayside, PC Stewart has spoken to pupils in schools throughout the area as well as apprentices at SSE, GSK, Michelin, Gowrie Care and D&A College.
His talks can be requested by anyone, though he particularly wants to speak to learners, employers of new drivers and even groups of parents.
He said: “I’ve had adults tell me they didn’t know some of the things I talk about.”
However, PC Stewart knows that tracking whether his talks are effective is tricky – given that no news is good news when it comes to road crashes.
PC Stewart can be contacted by emailing NewDriverSchemeTayside@scotland.pnn.police.uk.