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Young Driver School: Teaching Young Drivers A Lesson

14/08/2014 16:53 | Updated 22 May 2015

Teaching young drivers a lesson

I've got a few years' grace before I have to let either of my two sons loose behind the wheel of a car on the road. But that doesn't mean I'm not dreading the day they're old enough to learn to drive.

Why? Because I'm all too aware of the shockingly high rates of accidents that newly-qualified drivers have.

The statistics are scary. One in five newly qualified drivers will crash within six months of passing their test – and that figure rises to 40.

And in the UK, the Young Driver school (which delivers lessons to 11-17 year olds in a controlled environment) say their approach is also helping to make young drivers safer.

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I didn't know these things existed! Driving lessons for kids who may be only just big enough to see over the steering wheel? In real cars? With real driving instructors? What an intriguing idea...

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The UK's largest under-17 driving school, Young Driver offers lessons in 29 venues all over the country.

There's one near me. So, I decided to enrol my 14-year-old, Steffan, onto a lesson.

He's a typical teen boy in that he tends to act first, think later. So I'll be asking him to completely change his mindset by letting him drive a car.

We arrive at the venue – the top floor of a large shopping centre's car park – which is set up with cones and markers to represent a full road system with traffic signs, junctions and parking zones.

Within minutes, an instructor has whisked Steffan away into one of the brand new (yikes!) dual control (phew!) SEAT cars emblazoned with the Young Driver logo. As he learns how to adjust the seat, steering wheel and mirrors, I watch in wonder as several other mini-drivers pass me by. Actually driving!

Some are smiling, others are frowning with concentration. Soon Steffan, too drives past me – and on his second lap manages a casual wave.

Half way through the lesson, I'm invited (with his younger brother) into the back seat to see how he's getting on. We do a lap of the circuit, turn corners, wait at junctions, change gears, stop, start (and stall). The driving instructor tells me Steffan is – within half an hour – doing all this on his own, with no manual help from him. "They learn quickly at this age; they're like sponges," he says.

I'm impressed. I haven't seen Steffan concentrate this hard since he was last on his X-box. And he's taking instructions and acting on them, without answering back, deferring with a 'yeah, yeah, I'll do it later,' or totally ignoring commands.

Most importantly, he's learning that being in control of a car is a big responsibility. "There's so much to remember," he admits.

As he turns corners (close to a wall and a seven storey drop) and reverse parks precariously close to another car, the instructor is calmness itself. Which leads to me to realise that – when the time comes for my sons to learn to drive – it shouldn't be me taking them out on the roads.

"That's what we believe at Young Driver," says my instructor. "It's best left to the professionals. Parents aren't qualified to teach their child how to drive."

The course is split into six levels (which requires a course of lessons). As pupils progress through the lessons and levels, they learn how to add judgement to their control of the car (how close they can get to obstacles and what sort of gaps they can safely drive through), how to take corners safely, when it's appropriate to change gear, typical day to day manoeuvres and they are set challenges like driving through a slalom forwards and then backwards.

In the final level, they are taught the importance of their judgement of speed and distance to help them appreciate that they are in control of risk on the road.

In short, the Young Driver course is all about encouraging responsible driving, not high speed thrills and spills.

At the end of our lesson, I'm convinced that these sort of pre-learning skills should be available to all young drivers. Maybe even as part of the school curriculum. But that, of course will cost money.

Still, money well spent, when you think of the terrible cost of young lives that our roads are responsible for at the moment.

Lessons cost from £31.99.

More information www.youngdriver.eu. Telephone 0844 371 9010

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