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Can You Be Too Young To Learn About Driving?


Can You Be Too Young To Learn About Driving?

As the news emerges that the organisers of nationwide driver training programmes and a long-running competition for young drivers have lowered the age threshold to entries for this year’s event to 10, we thought that was a good reason to debate the topic of young drivers, and what benefits they might get from having the chance to get behind the wheel at as young an age as possible.

Living and working in the relatively rural area around the England/Wales border that we do, we’re acutely aware of how important it is for pretty much anyone to have access to a car. And of course, we see many young customers who are keen to buy a reliable, quality used car in Oswestry, because they know it will be the key to their independence, and their ability to make the most of opportunities to further themselves.

With the importance of all these factors in mind, Young Driver clearly subscribes to the response to our headline that no, you can’t. It specialises in offering training and practical experience to children as young as 10, and organises an annual series of qualifying heats across all 43 of its sites in Wales, England and Scotland which give qualification to the Young Driver Challenge, which will be running throughout this summer.

The obvious reason why 10 is the minimum age when anyone should expect to be able to drive is that this is also what’s known as the age of criminal responsibility - the age at which the law in the UK deems that you are sufficiently aware of your responsibilities that, in effect, you know right from wrong, and so can be charged with a criminal offence. The same goes for when you’re driving, even under the supervision of an adult.


A Little Knowledge Can Be Dangerous

There’s a school of thought which adheres to the above maxim - first coined by Alexander Pope in the mid-18th century - and in the context of driving it’s certainly true that novice drivers are more prone to accidents.

So there’s a case to be made for letting youngsters make all their elementary mistakes behind the wheel in an environment where they can cause the least possible damage to their vehicles and themselves - and that’s the premise behind the many off-road driver training courses out there specifically aimed at those who aren’t yet old enough to be let out onto public roads.

Certainly, today’s busy roads are an intimidating, and often dangerous, place for many novice drivers. Safety charity RoSPA came out with the following statistics in 2002:

  • Although 17–21 year-old drivers account for about 7% of the driving population, they comprise 13% of drivers involved in accidents
  • An 18-year-old driver is more than three times more likely to be involved in an accident than a 48-year-old, and
  • One in five new drivers are involved in an accident in their first year of driving.

Taking all these factors into consideration, it’s clear that inexperience, whether it’s of the variety of road conditions which can be encountered, the capabilities of their cars, or how other people react when they’re around them, is a major contributor to lots of unfortunate, and sometimes very damaging incidents - to property and people - which take place on our roads and involve young and inexperienced drivers.

How you go about addressing this gap between your experience and skills, when all other drivers on the road will expect you to show some confidence as soon as you’ve passed your driving test is a conundrum faced by every young driver.


Thrown In At The Deep End

The greatest degree of risk among young drivers is almost certainly posed by those who start a job which routinely requires them to drive. That could be using a van to make deliveries, or simply just the daily commute. While there’s no substitute for the experience you will gain, and you will doubtless learn far more quickly than your peers how to deal with everyday road hazards, an employer is handing you a great deal of responsibility if it puts you in charge of one of its vehicles.

As a result, one of the most popular means of helping a young driver appreciate the risks they face is by enrolling them on a young driver’s course. Most of those available are run by private companies, such as the one which also runs the Young Driver Challenge, and a search on Google will eventually help you find ones running near you.

Of course, you’ll have to pay for the privilege, but you should balance that against the considerations that you’ll probably emerge as a wiser individual, be more aware of how your car works, and its limitations, and have greater appreciation of your responsibility towards everyone with whom you have to share the road.


Advice Is Everywhere - So Get The Best You Can Afford

One of the problems with learning as a young driver is that everyone else is keen to offer you their advice. And you get enough of that when you’re in the classroom, or just from your parents, right?

But there’s a major difference in the tips you’ll pick up from your driving instructor or anyone who helps you get to grips with the tricky discipline of driving solo - their warnings and pointers can actually save your life.

So for once, it’s a good idea to curb your natural instinct to rebel, and pay attention to the concerns of your elders.

Think on this - lots of the stuff you pick up in school, university, or wherever you choose to go to acquire the knowledge you need to help you fulfil your ambitions, will only be useful in a tiny proportion of your life. But you’ll be drawing on all your knowledge picked up from a driving instructor, your parents, and anyone else you enlist to help you acquire the vital skills involved in driving, every time you get behind the wheel.

As a result, you shouldn’t underestimate the value of any driver training you can get, whether it’s formal lessons on the road, classroom tuition involving the theory of how a car works, or getting the chance to be put through your paces in a controlled environment away from public roads which many driver training courses represent.

You’ll often hear education - especially once you go to university and are paying for it yourself - referred to as an ‘investment in your future’. Well, your ability to drive confidently  (definitely not over-confidently) and safely, is a skill which will reward you with the assurance that you can anticipate and deal with everyday hazards. You’re protecting that investment if you like.

And it’s well known that the younger you are, the easier it is for you to learn new skills. So taking this to its logical conclusion, the earlier you can start to learn at least the basic skills involved in driving, and start to appreciate your responsibilities to ensure that you and other people stay safe on the roads, the better.

How old were you when you started to learn to drive? Did you get any experience off-road before you were 17 which helped you cope better when you were eventually let loose for real? And do you think it’s worth paying to give under-17s basic driving skills? Tweet us with your thoughts, or connect with us on Facebook to have your say.