Do you want to know how to put a smile on a teenager’s face? Teach ‘em to drive.
I know this because I took the youngest Ruppert to Bluewater Shopping Centre in Kent the other day. The Seat Young Driver programme does not take place in the shopping aisles obviously but in a designated Young Driver Zone.
When we went there were cones to drive round, but once the weather gets better, proper road markings will make the former coach park look even more like a suburban driving school rat run.
All the children need to be is more than 1,5 metres (4’11”) tall and aged between 11 and 16. They then get one to one tuition in a dual control Seat.
Watching the youngsters get behind the wheel for the first time is slightly worrying as you might expect them to stall, kangaroo and generally rev the little Ibiza into oblivion, but not a bit of it.
They concentrate and move deliberately around the course, listening intently to what they are told. In complete contrast to the way many so-called grown-ups deal with the challenge of driving.
After an hour they are more confident, happy and beaming from ear to ear. It’s a good way to start driving rather than have your Dad going mental because you’ve just burned the clutch out on his Cortina/Mondeo (delete according to your age).
Yet the great and the good can only see negatives in all this.
Inspector Alan Jones at the Police Federation said: "Driving on one of these courses at 11 years old, it's another six years until you can get a driving licence. How does it replicate the real world, the spontaneous incidents? Are kids mature enough at 11, 12, 13 years old to understand what's happening on the roads, to be able to manage all the demands and pressures? I'm not persuaded it's a good idea."
Those killjoys at The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents were even more negative.
"While early education is a very good thing, the same does not apply to driving a car. It will probably mean youngsters will take fewer lessons when they come to learn to drive and if they take fewer lessons they will get less experience.
"That means when they pass their test they may be at greater risk of crashing because they won't have had as much experience when they are supervised"
Twerps. What I saw was young people learning vital life skills in a highly controlled environment. I’d like to know what you think and what car you first drove. Mine was an Audi 100LS.