It’s a while since Little Miss C got behind the wheel for the first time thanks to Young Driver, but it’s something that she still keeps talking about avidly. 2017 was very much a year of change for me when it came to family circumstances, so when I next bumped into the Young Driver team at Blog On I was able to talk to them about the next stage of driving for my step daughter L.
At 13 years old she is old enough for the next driving stage from what LMC tried – a proper car!
When we told her about what we had planned it’s fair to say that she was in a stage of shock about what she was going to be allowed to do. As far as she was concerned, driving a full sized car was something that adults did. Not teenagers like herself. For weeks before she kept asking if we were sure that it was a full sized car and whether she really would be allowed to drive it or not.
Back in late November we returned to the roof of Brent Cross multi-storey car park (and yikes is it cold there at that time of year!) but this time to take to the proper sized cars.
Young Driver makes use of full sized Vauxhall Corsa cars – exactly the same as any regular driving instructor would with dual controls inside the car. The only difference is that these children are driving in a private space instead of on the road. Cones are used to set out roadways across the car park and they are taught to drive as if they were on the public roads.
L’s driving instructor for the 30 minute lesson immediately put her at ease and we were amazed at how soon she was pulling away and driving for herself. In that half hour lesson she was taught the basics of steering, using the clutch and gears and even reverse. That’s something that I’m pretty sure I didn’t do in my first driving lesson all those years ago.
Yes, there were a couple of wobbles, but I doubt that very few people don’t stall at all in their first lesson in a manual car. Watching though, my dad and I were really impressed at how much she managed to achieve in a first lesson. She also came away from it with a huge confidence boost, seeing that driving was something that (with tuition) she was cable of doing – even aged just 13.
As well as us taking lots of photographs and videos of her driving, we also went for the option of an in car video. This uses two cameras – one looking forwards, and one on the driver – and also includes sound, so you can really re-live the whole driving experience.
So many teenagers are desperate to be independent, but it can seem like a long time from turning 17 to being able to sit your driving test. Parents can give them a head start though, by helping them to get familiar with driving before being allowed to do so on the public road. Admittedly, nothing totally replaces on-road experience, but it means one less thing for them to worry about in their first proper driving lesson. Also, the sooner they learn those driving skills, the more experienced they will be behind the wheel, hopefully making them as safe as possible once they get that independence.
With a Drive Diary in which instructors can document what a pupil has covered and what they need to do to reach the next stage of their driving journey, it’s a great way of a teenager being able to see how much progress they are making behind the wheel, as well as understanding what other skills they are doing to develop.
Young Driver have lessons for 10 to 16 year olds at 60 venues across the country (as well as lessons in smaller cars for 5 – 10 year olds). In addition 10 to 16 year olds can also take part in a skills day where they get to drive on a full size motorway – albeit one that is not open to the public.
Please note: Due to construction work there are no dates currently available at Brent Cross, but that in light of this Young Driver have opened a new site at Uxbridge. They are also preparing to launch another venue in London in 2018, so watch out for new venue announcements in due course!
Disclaimer: We received a 30 minute experience for the purposes of this review. All opinions remain my own.