Young people from the age of 11 are being taught to drive under a new scheme that it is claimed could cut accidents involving new drivers by up to 40 per cent.

Spanish firm Seat has launched the initiative, called Young Driver, which offers lessons to anyone between the age of 11 and 16. It aims to train 250,000 young people each year from 2010 onwards..

The scheme's first centre has just opened near Birmingham’s NEC and the plan is to set up a further 15 across the country.

It is estimated that 20 per cent of new drivers will have an accident within six months of passing their test. Young Driver's ethos is that by teaching driving skills earlier on it will make the roads safer.

“I believe we have the responsibility to provide basic road and driving skils to our young children,” said Professor Kevin Morley , head of the Young Driver programme. “Young Driver provides a great platform to learn skills required to make them more road-conscious.”

The trained driving instructors have also found the young drivers are often better learners than 17-year olds.

The scheme teaches basics such as clutch control and moves through five different sections, which become progressively more difficult, including reversing around corners and parallel parking. The cars used for tuition are basic 1.2-litre Seat Ibizas.

It is even hoped Young Driver will be able to strike a deal with Porsche to allow young people to drive one of its high-performance models on a private facility once all the courses are completed.

Another bonus could be reduced insurance through another partner Admiral. The insurance firm told Autocar it will monitor how the course affects accident rates in young drivers and could offer better premiums if there are positive effects.

Half-hour lessons cost £29 and full hour-long sessions are £55.00, but it is hoped schools and the government could get involved to subsidise the scheme and make it available during term time.

Further venues will be introduced early in 2010; the next one is earmarked for Manchester. Sites in Edinburgh and London are expected to open in February.

Oliver Stallwood

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