Should 10-year-olds be taught to drive the family car?

  • Longer period of training, better driver
  • One way to halve the six months ‘peril window’
  • Lessons learned better, brain pre-programmed
YOUNG DRIVERS: Image: Newspress
YOUNG DRIVERS: Yes, this youngster IS driving. Starting to drive at such an age is deemed a good idea in the UK with youngsters below 17 taking the wheel for lessons.  Image: Newspress

LONDON, England – An enormous proportion – about 57%  – of Britons believe their driving is worse now than when they first passed their test and threw away their L-plates.

Research from Young Driver, the UK’s largest provider of pre-age 17 driving lessons, hasshown that only 43% felt they were better behind the wheel now they have clocked up thousands of kilometres.

Almost 40% thought they’d struggle to pass their test if they had to retake it now – rising to 46% of over 55s. More women than men also thought they would fail if they were to take a test tomorrow (42’against 36%).

YOUNG DRIVERS: Image: Newspress
YOUNG DRIVERS: Go girl! This youngster will be an experienced driver by the time she is 17. Image: Newspress

More than 2400 drivers were questioned in the study.

Kim Stanton, who heads up Young Driver, said most drivers know they pick up bad habits along the way, which is probably why they feel they’d fail.

80 000 AVOIDABLE CRASHES

She added: “We know experience makes a safer driver – it’s borne out in road-safety statistics. Shockingly, one in five newly qualified drivers has an accident within six months of getting on the road. With 400 000 17- to 21-year-olds passing their test each year that’s 80 000 potentially avoidable collisions.

“Almost 1300 people in that age group are killed or seriously injured in road events each year – a much higher proportion than that age group accounts for in terms of the total number of road users.”

Driver education scheme Admiral Young Driver wants to help youngsters build up valuable experience behind the wheel – before they’re 17. Children as young as 10 can drive a brand-new, dual-controlled Vauxhall Corsa SRi with an experienced instructor and learn everything from how to park or negotiate a roundabout (traffic circle) to emergency stops and dealing with blind spots.

Admiral has given almost a half-million lessons since the scheme was launched in 2009.

EARLIER SKILLS, BETTER DRIVERS

Existing research has shown that teaching young people to drive from an earlier age and over a longer period can halve the accident rate for a newly qualified driver in that dangerous first six months.

One of the reasons experience is so beneficial: it can help many skills behind the wheel to become automatic so, once on the open road along, the young driver will be able to focus more on being alert to danger.

YOUNG DRIVERS: Image: Newspress
YOUNG DRIVERS: Admiral students might not be allowed on the open road but if they were they might be much better drivers than their parents. Image: Newspress

Teen expert Nicola Morgan is an award-winning author and international speaker who specialises in writing for and about adolescents development, performance and well-being. Among, the books are ‘Blame My Brain’ and ‘The Teenage Guide to Stress’.

She explained: “The brain learns to do anything well by repetition. Every time we repeat an activity we are creating and strengthening physical pathways between neurons (nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord).

“The more we do it, the stronger those pathways become; the stronger they become the more ‘automatic’ the skills in question become.”

‘THINGS SHOULD BE AUTOMATIC’

Morgan side there was a danger in learning to drive in a short time because minimum repetitions were needed to pass the test but not to become expert.

“The skills required to drive confidently and safely (especially while distracted) have not been embedded as neural pathways in the brain,” she explained. “Without these strong pathways a huge amount of driving focus goes on things that should be automatic – gear-changing and road position, for instance – leaving less focus for noticing and dealing with a sudden emergency.”

Click here for more information on Young Driver.

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