Some of my most vivid memories from learning to drive are stalling and kangarooing along the road. Rather annoyingly this was strangely lacking at the new Young Driver programme I attended yesteday, which teaches 11 to 16-year-olds how to drive.
The scheme has been set up with the support of Seat, and aims to give children driving skills and a sense of responsibility early on, making them better drivers and reducing accidents.
Chatting with ex-Ford and Rover man Kevin Morley, he told me that often the younger the person taking part the better they are at driving. “These guys are better than 17-year-olds,” he says, “they are more enthusiastic and there is less pressure.”
To find out for myself I jumped in the back of one of the learner cars with 14-year-old Lucy and her instructor. Lucy had already had a couple of hours tuition, but I was amazed at how much she had picked up.
Over 20 minutes of driving she threaded the Ibiza through a series of very tight cones, parallel parked and reversed around a corner with ease, only stalling once in the whole time. These are all things (including the stalling) that I was doing only a few weeks before taking my test.
“The most difficult part is parallel parking,” she said, “because you have to think about a lot of different things. The biggest help is learning how to use the clutch and I think the course will be a big help because I will know how the car works before I take lessons on the road.”
Perhaps it’s true and there are less distractions and less impatience in these very young drivers, and I can only hope that the course will help to improve the catastrophic statistics involving new drivers. I was also glad I wasn’t asked to parallel park into the same gap.