Should driving lessons be available to 11-year-olds?
I’ve just watched a video of an 11-year-old having a driving lesson and I’ve been left feeling slightly uneasy.
The young boy in question was taking part in a Young Driver training course in Doncaster, UK.
Apparently the courses ‘give youngsters a chance to drive a real car in a safe but realistic environment to teach essential motoring skills that help to put those behind the wheel in good stead for when they come to have a bash at real driving lessons’.
The boy’s mum explained that, on the way to the location for the lesson, he had commented: “I’ve done Mario Kart on the Wii loads of times so I think I should be alright.”
For the lesson he was perched on a cushion to help him see over the steering wheel and before long was ‘making numerous laps, picking up speed and attempting gear changes’.
When the session came to an end he declared: “That was epic. I would love to do that again.”
Of course, driving a car is going to be ‘epic’ for an 11-year-old. It’s something grown-ups do and therefore it’s exciting, fun and a great big adventure.
And this is the very reason I’m not convinced about encouraging 11-year-olds to get behind the wheel. Driving isn’t something we should be selling to young children as a ‘bit of fun’ or a leisure activity to be compared with going swimming, cycling or playing sports.
But, for children, having a go at driving a car is always going to seem like a fun activity – especially if they get to drive without having to learn the theory of driving or rules of the road.
In my opinion we don’t want to run the risk of instilling this attitude in young drivers. We already have that problem with plenty of drivers at 17 and 18; let’s not start it even younger.
Don’t get me wrong – I can 100% see the reasoning behind teaching driving skills at a younger age. According to the Young Driver website research shows that early driving experience cuts road accidents by 40%. I’m not disputing this. However, there are two things that alarm me in particular. First, Young Driver offers driving ‘parties’ for groups of children. A birthday party is a time for celebration when groups of friends get together to have fun. To me this just reinforces the fact that driving is being promoted as a fun leisure activity to young children.
The second thing that alarms me is the list of reasons Young Driver offers for choosing their courses. There are ten reasons in total; number two on the list is ‘safety’. Number one is ‘fun’.
I think an urgent rethink is needed about the primary reason children are young as 11 are being taught to drive.
I’d love to know what you think. Let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org
Editor – One More Second