young driver experience programme
Jonathan Crouch Looks at an Innovative Course That Gets Youngsters Out On The Road - In Safety.....
If your children are anything like mine, then they're probably desperate to get behind the wheel of a car. Being under 17, of course, they can't - or can they?
Years ago, it was possible. Your parents took you to a spare piece of disused land off the public highway and sat alongside you sweating as you crashed the gearlever forward for the first time. Today of course, hardly any of that spare land still exists. Kids usually get their first taste of real driving alongside an instructor.
Some would say that this is how it should be, and others, myself among them, would disagree. Should we really be throwing young people on to the public roads at 17 with just enough experience to enable them to keep out of other people's way? Children can, after all, legitimately start to race karts at just seven, getting comfortable with advanced skid control by the time they're into double figures.
So what are the options on offer to parents who want to indulge their youngster's desires for road experience before the magic age of licence provision? Well, believe it or not, there are some alternatives open to you. One such is Motorsport Vision's "Young Drive!" programme. Prices start from £79, for a 2.5 hour course, during which children get 35 - 40 minutes behind the wheel of a dual control MINI One with a fully qualified Department of Transport driving instructor sitting alongside. The minimum age limit is eleven years and the minimum height is 4ft 10in.
The course runs not only at Brands Hatch in Kent, but also at Oulton Park in Cheshire and Bedford Autodrome in Bedfordshire. It's been going for around 15 years and, at Brands at least, over 1,000 youngsters each year get their first taste of driving here. The average age is 11 to 16 years and there's a boy/girl ratio of about 60:40. Pupils get a 15-minute safety briefing, before being allotted three to a car and going off to the circuit. When not driving, pupils sit in the back, observing, and the instructor hopes, learning.
The instructors used are all high-marked advanced driving instructors and are given a further vetting by Motorsport Vision for their suitability in teaching under-age drivers. They have to quickly assess pupils to see how they will be behind the wheel, but after the first course, there's little opportunity to gain further expertise. This is something those behind the course would do well to think about for the future. For the time being however, this is an initiative that makes a lot of sense. Searching for a 14th, 15th or 16th birthday present? You may have just found one....
If you want to find out more about Young Drive, it's run by Motorsport Vision and you'll
find courses taking place at Brands Hatch in Kent and Oulton Park in Cheshire and Bedford Autodrome in Bedfordshire. Booking at any of the circuits is usually two months ahead. The course lasts about 2.5 hours, with about 35 - 40 minutes at the wheel. Pupils must be between 4ft 10in and 6ft 7in tall and less than 18 stone, aged 11 or over.
Book online at www.motorsportvision.co.uk - Driving Experiences or telephone: 0843 453 1000.