It’s really hard to know what to buy for children as they approach the teenage years isn’t it!
This year for Oliver’s 12th birthday I arranged for him to have an hour long lesson behind the wheel as part of the young driver experience and recently I took him along for the ride…pun intentional!
Driving schemes for young drivers have been set up by companies such as Young Drivers in order to give driving experience to children before they reach driving age. Statistics from the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents show that 3000 car drivers under 25 are killed or injured in Britain every year. Statistics also say that one in five new drivers crash within six months of passing their test. Scary figures for any parent thinking of their child being on the road in the future. Swedish research has shown that accident rates fall when driving has been introduced before the age of 17. (Source Wikipedia)
As we arrived, we were offered the optional extra of having the experience recorded on a car-cam which showed a split screen of the road ahead as well as the driver. We decided to go for it and record the first time Oliver sat behind the wheel. I thought this was a nice touch.
I have to say that as I sat in the back seat listening to the lovely instructor John talk Oliver through what he called ’pre-drive checks and adjustments’ I realised just how much I now do automatically as a driver that learners must find overwhelming.
John talked Oliver through a handbrake check and a shake of the gearstick to check for neutral. He got Oliver to double check the door was secure, put his belt on, alter the position of the rear view mirror and adjust the seat so that he was close enough to the pedals.
Other aspects of driving that I have long forgotten to be conscious of which were covered included
- Pushing the clutch in to turn the engine on
- The job of each pedal
- Finding the ‘biting point’
- Checking the blind spot.
- How to release the gear stick and moving off from the bite
- Not looking down at the gears as Oliver changed gear
- Mirror – signal- manoeuvre
- Hand positions on the steering wheel so that the hands don’t get tangled up in a criss cross
- How not to stall the car (and how to cope when you do stall it!)
The ‘course’ itself included left turns, right turns, give way points and a make shift roundabout. John guided Oliver around the course with the ‘driving lesson’ instructions I had long forgotten (and a relaxing voice as smooth as silk! ~ side note) Other young driver motorists were also navigating the course which gave it a real sense of reality rather than the mock driving lessons I had with my Dad late at night on a deserted car park. Not only was Oliver learning the mechanics of driving but also the essential social skills of considering other drivers which I think is the hardest part of driving.
One part of the course involved Oliver driving a figure of eight around some yellow cones to help him master steering and judgement, again great skills and I’ve never known my chatterbox so quiet!
John was brilliant at addressing Oliver’s worries (“what if I hit the kerb?”) and errors, explaining that this was the best way to learn. He definitely reassured Oliver in a way that only a third party can do. I’m not chilled enough to manage all that tension but John did a great job and ensured that Oliver felt calm and positive throughout the hour. Oliver is an incredibly anxious child who doesn’t cope well when he feels like he is failing and so after the third time of stalling the car I expected him to want to quit but I didn’t see any signs of that at all which is a big deal and testament to Johns support.
However, If Oliver found driving forwards a challenge, reversing was practically an endurance test. After his first attempt Oliver declared “I’m sweating now!” and I laughed.
I have to say that as a parent I was really impressed with the quality of the lesson. The cars were all dual controlled so there was never a worry about safety and John constantly encouraged and reassured Oliver at every point through the lesson. Oliver brought a ‘drive diary’ home with him too which recorded his skills and progress for the day as well as his development points. The teacher in me really loves this as it makes the lesson feel more official and gave a record of his achievement which he could build on with more lessons.
After the lesson, we chatted with Jerry who told us that his own son had started lessons when he was 14 and had one every 2 or 3 months until he was 17. He only needed a couple of professional lessons before passing his test first time with no minors. At aged 18 he now drives a company car as his employer are so impressed with him and while Jerry says his son does have the boy racer car, he definitely doesn’t have the boy racer attitude and has a great respect for the road.
The experience lasted an hour but felt much shorter. Oliver’s evaluation was that it was “nerve wrecking but brilliant fun. I’ve learned loads of skills and can’t wait to do it again” Watch our video to see his review and some footage of the lesson. We will definitely be back.
On the way home, he marvelled at how easy I made it look to drive (thanks son) and just as I was beginning to think how seriously Oliver was taking driving he asked “do you know what film I really want to watch now mum?” My reply ~ “Fast and the furious by any chance?” Him “Ooooooo yeah”. Remind me to book those other lessons in!
If you are interested in booking a lesson then please contact the young driver website to check locations and availability. Until the 31st October 2017 the code YDNORTH20 will give you 20% off. The perfect Christmas gift!
I was given the Young Driver experience in exchange for my honest review.