By Izzy Schifano
My daughter had her first driving lesson when she was 16, and afterwards she wrote this account of how it went. Her lesson was with Young Driver, an organisation which teaches 11-17 year-olds to drive at specialist centres across the UK.
When I turn seventeen next year, I plan on learning to drive as soon as I possibly can. This is mostly because we live in the middle of absolutely nowhere and I can never get anywhere. With little less than a year to go, I’m in the process of saving up/convincing Mum to pay for driving lessons. So when we heard about the Young Driver scheme I obviously jumped at the chance to get a head start with learning.
When I first got in the car my lovely driving instructor, Nick, helped me to adjust the seat and mirrors. He explained about what the mirrors are for and when to use them, and taught me about steering. I was told not to worry about the pedals as he would do them (the cars obviously all have dual control), and to concentrate on steering only. I think that beginning with this was a great idea as it meant you could get a feel for the car and what driving is like without having to think about too many things. For about half an hour we drove round the track, focusing on my steering – I managed to not go up onto the curb even once!
What I learnt
At first I simply manoeuvred and steered on the ‘roads’. We then progressed to making a figure of eight around some cones, then a mini-roundabout, and then a slalom. Nick was really helpful and told me exactly what to do when I wasn’t sure about something. After steering and acceleration, we stopped the car while Nick explained the clutch to me. It all sounded very confusing, but I was surprised by how easy it is to remember once you’re actually doing it. We continued around the track like before, except now I was in control of the pedals (Nick helping of course!) He told me to stop at every turn, even when it was clear, which I thought was strange at first but I soon realised it was actually really good as it meant I got a lot of practice with using the clutch and brakes. I stalled quite a few times but Nick was so patient and talked me through what to do.
Once I’d sort-of got the hang of the pedals, and the lesson was drawing to a close, we started on reversing. I was mildly terrified as Mum hates reversing, always makes a huge deal about it and demands total silence from everyone in the car. I needn’t have worried as we only reversed for about twenty meters and Nick helped me the whole time, telling me exactly what to do. I’ve decided that Mum makes a huge fuss about nothing. All too soon it was the end of the lesson and we reversed into a parking space.
The aim of the Young Driver programme is to make people aware of the basics of driving before they start to tackle the hard stuff. One in five drivers will crash within six months of passing their test, but research shows that Young Driver is reducing inexperienced driver’s accidents by 50%, which is pretty amazing if you ask me. The cars used are all brand new SKODA Citigo’s, which are easy to operate and are also quite small and so are easy to manoeuvre, which makes them an ideal car to use for your first ever taste of driving. The programme is split into six stages, each with different learning points ranging from putting your seatbelt on and adjusting the chair to overtaking and reversing round corners. You are given a ‘drive diary’ where your instructor records your progress after each session. Once you’ve completed level three there are additional ‘skills days’ which you can attend which teach you more advanced driving skills such as motorways and driving in the dark and adverse conditions.
I found my lesson incredibly helpful and I’m sure it will prove to be very useful when I can start taking proper driving lessons. It was lovely learning to drive in a small space where everyone else is in the same boat as you are – I can imagine that when I’m 17 and learning on the roads it will be much more stressful due to impatient drivers, and when I do have lessons the knowledge that I’ve done some of the basics before will make me feel more confident. I would love to do another Young Driver lesson and would absolutely recommend this to anyone who is my age and wants a head start on learning to drive or anyone else who just wants a useful and fun way to spend an hour (and, as my lesson was in Bluewater shopping centre, a good excuse to go shopping!) Thank you very much to SKODA for arranging this lesson for me.
You can find details of venues, prices etc on the Young Driver website.
More on learning to drive
Do read my other posts about kids learning to drive:
Disclaimer: Skoda arranged a one-hour Young Driver lesson for my daughter for the purposes of this review.