young driver

driving lessons for 11 to 16-year olds

young driver

DRIVING DOWN THE AGE OF LESSONS

Do teenagers really need to wait until the age of 17 before learning to drive? At 'Young Driver', a company that gets 11-16 year-olds behind the wheel, they think not. Jonathan Crouch took his daughters to try it..

Got teenage children? Then you know that sooner or later, you've got to start thinking about driving lessons. But what if they could be better prepared for them? That's where the Young Driver training programme comes in.

Operating from locations country-wide, it enables 11-16 year-olds to learn the basics of driving in a safe, controlled environment on a specially constructed road course. As someone with two girls in that age group, I thought I'd give it a try.

Let's start with the basics. Young Driver operate at venues throughout the UK with details available on their website at www.youngdriver.eu. Lessons can be either 30 or 60 minutes and the instructor will adapt them if necessary to allow for the youngster's age and ability. Initially, students will be taught the basics of how to start and stop the vehicle, move away, change gear and steer. In later lessons they will encounter two-way traffic, junctions, turning, parking and reverse parking. At some venues, they will also experience the issues posed by roundabouts and traffic lights. All their students are given a 'Drive Diary' to record their progress.

Standard Young Driver lessons start from just £34.95 and gift vouchers are also available if you want to give tuition as a present. The company also offers group bookings for special events like birthday parties at prices starting from £174.75 for 6 people. We tried separate 60 minute lessons for my two daughters Ellie (12) and Caris (14), both tempted along by the lure of the fact that it would be based just outside the Bluewater shopping centre in Kent. Your local 'Young Driver' venue will probably be somewhere similar.

Like many of the Young Driver lesson venues, this one was based in a cordoned-off area of the shopping centre carpark and staffed by qualified ex (and current) driving instructors. Both Caris and Ellie found them encouraging and helpful as they covered the basics and got them going. As with most learner drivers, my girls struggled with clutch engagement and reversing, but by the end of the hour, both felt they were really getting it. The coned course wasn't really long enough to get up any speed but eventually, Ellie was confident enough to get her car - a little SEAT Ibiza - up into 3rd gear.

So, why should young people learn the skills of driving before they are legally able to do so? Well, there's much evidence to suggest that the earlier you learn to drive, the safer you will be on the road. For example, it was found in Sweden that accidents rates were reduced by 40% when drivers had lessons at an early age. It has also been proven that in their early teens, young people absorb information and training much quicker than later in life and are able to retain that knowledge for longer.

Newly qualified drivers and their passengers account for one in five road deaths in the UK, so improving their chances by early driver training is an obvious choice to make for many parents.

Young Driver was launched in 2009 and is sponsored by SEAT, Goodyear and Admiral Insurance. They have since delivered over 100,000 driving lessons at 30 different locations throughout the UK. And they are now the UK's largest under-17 driving school.

Motoring journalist, Quentin Wilson believes that teaching teenagers the basics of driving before they reach 17 could be part of a road safety revolution in this country. He even suggests that a driving exam should be part of the school curriculum and as a consequence could save hundreds of lives a year. Quentin quotes Young Driver's own statistics that show only 11% of their students have an accident in their first six months of driving - which is much lower than the national average of 20%.

As for Caris and Ellie, well they're already asking me when they can go back and have another lesson. And can they start saving for a car.

For more information about Young Driver and the training they provide, telephone 0844 371 9010. You can also email them at info@youngdriver.eu or visit their website at www.youngdriver.eu. They are also on Facebook at /youngdriver and Twitter @youngdriver.