Before Transport Minister Mark Gosche kicks off the Automobile Association's 2000 National Driver Education and Awareness Conference in Wellington next week, he might like to check out a new strategy to put road safety into the school curriculum in Britain. Added to the three Rs will be the three Es of road safety - engineering, enforcement and education.

"Driving is an acquired skill and a demanding one," says the British Department of the Environment, which released the strategy. "As well as the right skills, drivers need the right attitude - towards speed, other road users, alcohol, drugs and fatigue. We want to make learning to drive more relevant to today's road conditions, and those of the future."

Learner drivers will be taught to be responsible for a vehicle, not just pass a test, which is all they have to do in New Zealand. Britain's road deaths are the lowest per head of population in the developed world.

Echoing popular price

It's a competitive car market and Toyota wants to remain sales leader. We know of a woman who bought a standard three-door Toyota Echo for $18,000. The recommended retail price for the base-model car they are calling the Pied Piper - after the television advertisement - is $20,000. The Good Oil has driven the Echo. It is a good small car, its roomy interior and bright and breezy range of colours great for summer in the city.

Saucy special from Honda

Another car which comes highly recommended is the Honda Type R Integra, a saucy front-drive sports coupe. Honda New Zealand has priced it at $40,000 to compete against the Toyota Celica. The high-performance Integra is powered by a 1.8-litre four-cylinder engine, developing 141kW at a screaming 7900 rpm. It is available on special order only in white, black, Milano red or sunlight yellow.

A matter of style

The Italians certainly have style - just look at the Prada camp. But sometimes they go too far, like when the Italian Army styled its fleet of Land-Rover Defenders to look, well, stylish. Sometimes they don't, like the recent decision by its police force to buy 600 2.5-litre Subaru Legacy station-wagons. Indeed, Italians these days reckon station-wagons are the best thing since sliced pizza. Nearly 50 per cent of Opel Vectras sold in Italy are wagons and now Alfa Romeo is about ready to launch the 156 Sportwagon.

Ferrari just another name

While we are on Italy, the name Ferrari is as popular in the north of the country as Smith is in the Auckland phonebook. Indeed, the Ferrari sportscar factory employs about 40 Ferraris who have nothing to do with the Ferrari family. Piero Ferrari, the vice-president of the carmaker, tossed this into conversation when he breezed through Auckland the other day. "It is a very popular name in Modena and Milan," he said. There is even a Ferrari tractor - but again it has nothing to do with the car family.

Traction in the snow

Volkswagen will wheel in its all-wheel-drive 4Motion Passat and Golf models in the next few months. Meantime, Triangle Television viewers on Friday night will get a glimpse of how capable the 4Motion Golf is when Auto Motor and Sport puts it up against the VW-owned Skoda Octavia, another four-paw. The show also looks at how BMW is using satellites to develop new headlights, tests Ford and BMW traction control systems in the snow, and trundles out a go-fast Porsche Gemballa Boxster.

We are the world

* About 20 per cent of drivers in America admitted to steering with their thighs, says an insurance company survey. They were either busy applying make-up, fitting contact lenses, talking on the phone or fighting with passengers. Another 32 per cent admitted reading or writing while driving.