“Mum, shall I drive home?” were the first words we heard uttered, and accompanied with a cheeky grin, by a boy of around 12 on our way from the car park to the Young Driver reception desk.
This is sight I wasn’t expecting to see just yet.. my 10 year old having his first driving lesson!
Young Driver, the biggest and best under 17s driving school, offer real driving lessons to children from 10 years of age (and 1.42M/4FT8+ tall) giving them a great opportunity to get safety aware from a young age.
Lessons start from £35.99 for 30 minutes and need to be booked in advance to avoid disappointment. Lessons take place in a variety of temporary locations around the country and are set up on private land, often car parks, with all the cones and road signs to mimic a typical real road scenario.
Young Driver follows the Driving Standards Agency curriculum, which means that what is learnt in these lessons is exactly the same as they will learn on the road at 17.
Once we had registered he was given a Drive Diary and other information about what would happen on the lesson.
The personalised Drive Diary charts individual progress and current level of driving and is completed by the instructor after each driving session.
We were also invited to get a video of the experience with a dual camera – one showing the road and one directed at the driver – to record your first driving lesson to look back on. What a brilliant idea! This costs £14.99.
The lesson takes place with a driving instructor who has been specially trained in teaching the under 17s. The car is a dual control ŠKODA Citigo – the perfect first car – and of course has manual gear controls (which for some reason surprised me!). It’s also award-winning. What Car? named the it as the Best city car under £10,000 as part of the 2017 What Car? Car of the Year awards.
We were asked if Noah and myself wanted to sit in the back of the car, though most parents didn’t look to be doing this, Noah really wanted to so we jumped in!
First things first and the lesson started with pre driver checks – are all the doors shut and have all the passengers got their seat belts on? What do we need to adjust in the car – are the chair and mirrors at the correct position?
Once all this was sorted it was time to set off!
The instructor, Louise, was calm yet firm and very encouraging with lots of positive praise throughout the lesson.
Getting the hang of clutch control is a complicated thing but he managed it with ease, listening for the “juddering” of the biting point before releasing the clutch. Louise was reassuring and explained everything really clearly making sure that there was an awareness of everyone else on the road. He made it into 2nd gear and went a little bit faster before stopping at a Give Way sign to allow another car to pass. Louise talked about developing good habits such as remembering to indicate which direction you are going, even if no one else is around. He pulled over to the side of the road and then pulled out again and even managed to reverse park the car at the end of the lesson!
It was a totally brilliant experience and a great way to prepare children for their actual driving lessons. I am sure that if you have had practice in this environment you probably wouldn’t need as many lessons when you do start the real ones after the age of 17.
I was discussing the lesson with a friend though and she wasn’t so sure. There is sometime of a milestone moment when you are 17 and have your first lesson. Would this take away this excitement? Also would the child be a bit over confident thinking that real driving is the same as that on a virtually deserted car park? These are interesting points to debate and I think a conversation between parent and child would be needed to make sure this is right for you.
The most important thing is that it is fun! We had a fantastic time and he can’t wait to have another lesson! They would be a great gift idea or special treat to spend birthday money on. It also makes total sense that the more experience you have at something, from a younger age, the more confident and capable you feel. With safety at the root of all these lessons that should be embedded before they get behind the wheel of their first lesson.
Young Driver also offer a fun driving experience for children between the ages of 5-10 years on the Firefly cars and we have written about this experience here.
What do you think to this idea? Would your child love to have a go do you think?