As regular day trippers around the UK, we spend a lot of time on the road. I learned to drive as soon as I could afford regular lessons for myself, and it’s the best thing I ever learned. Driving has enabled me to take jobs that otherwise would have been difficult and has meant we can get to so many more places as a family. Driving has been and still is a big part of my life. The thought of my own children out there on the roads does worry me though – the roads are a lot busier now than when I was a teenager learning to drive. I’m not looking forward to them getting behind the wheel of their own car! Young Driver has come to the rescue.
When Young Driver UK asked me if we’d like to give the girls a taste of what could lie ahead, I jumped at the chance. Admiral’s Young Driver in association with Vauxhall aims to show children and teens essential road skills in the hope of producing more sensible drivers of the future. 1 in 5 newly qualified drivers crash within 6 months of passing their test. Young Driver aims to teach essential road skills before someone is legally allowed on the road.
We headed over to RAF Church Fenton / Leeds East Airport between York and Leeds. Here most weekends, lessons are available for over 10s. On selected dates, Firefly is available – this is a specially made car for under 10s. You do need to pre-book to ensure availability but you don’t have to come every week. For Firefly, it’s good to do a one-off session or maybe once a year as a birthday treat. For over 10s who get to drive a ‘proper’ car, you get a passbook to show your progress so your next lesson can start where your last one finished.
Driving Lessons for 5 – 10 years with Firefly
I accompanied the three younger children to Firefly and left the teen with Dad. Firefly was a specially-made electric ‘car’ with a steering wheel, pedals, and indicators. The instructor can cut the car off remotely if necessary, and when we were there, there was only one car on the track which eliminated the chance of a multi-car pile-up.
The instructor talked the girls through the controls and told them about the track area, which was marked out with cones for lanes and miniature road signs at the junctions. Once they’d had the talk, it was the turn of twin one.
She was shown how to make the car go forward, how to stop, and how to steer correctly – don’t cross your arms, and no sliding it around (I know you remember that from your own driving lessons!).
Then she was off with the instructor beside her – stopping at the junctions when the signs told her, and making her way around the lanes on the left side of the road, and going the right way off the ’roundabout’. She was doing very well.
Then it was my turn to be the passenger and the instructor hopped out (with his remote cut-off switch) and I got in. The girls each thought it was hilarious when I got in with them. We did a couple of laps, stopping at the stop signs and navigating the roundabout.
Each girl got a 20-minute slot each which I didn’t think would be enough but it was plenty.
When we had all finished, the instructor showed us what more ‘advanced’ mini drivers can learn – for example, parallel parking. He let the 9-year-old have a turn at this. This is something a mini driver can learn on lesson two, but there’s a limit to how much can be taught to such a young driver so there’s no need for a course of lessons as such.
*** Warning – a few cones may or may not have been harmed in the making of this video ***
When everyone was done, we each got a driving licence – signed and everything! I’m not sure it covers driving a real car on an actual road, but they were pleased with them anyway.
The girls, aged 6 and 9 absolutely loved Young Driver. The 9-year-old was at the top end for Firefly but she still enjoyed it and thought it was great that she was considered competent enough to try reversing and parallel parking.
The only thing that really could have improved it was white lines rather than cones but as the Firefly isn’t a permanent fixture at Leeds East Airport then we understand why this may not be possible.
While we were doing all this, the teen was having a different driving experience of her own, and you’ll be pleased to learn that Dad survived the trip!
Young Driver lessons for over 10s
While we were in the relative ease of a one-pedal car, the teen was getting to grips with a Vauxhall Corsa under the supervision of an ADI-approved instructor.
She appeared behind us just a few minutes after her lesson started which was a bit of a surprise. I expected there to be more talk in the car beforehand but she got out quite quickly and had lots of actual driving time during her 30-minute lesson.
The airport was huge and roomy. Even though there were around 10 to 15 cars on the track at once, it didn’t look cramped and there seemed to be lots of room for the young drivers to do their thing.
Here are some clips of the video from her day. You can buy the recording of the lesson for £15 extra if you want. It’s not Oscar winning quality but it’s a good memento. As you can see, she did very well and got to learn skills such as changing gears and reversing. For lesson one, she did an awful lot. And I’m sure that traffic cone will be just fine once the dents have been bashed out a bit.
The teen thoroughly enjoyed her first proper driving experience but is in no rush to get out and get her own car too soon. Afterwards, she had a much better appreciation of the skills required to drive. In fact, it bought me a bit of peace on the way home as she encouraged the noisier ones to pipe down so “mum can concentrate on driving properly” – Thanks!
Young Drivers get a passbook to keep a record of their lessons. You can have them as often or as infrequent as you want – the book helps you keep track of what skills you’ve learned so far and tells the ADI approved instructor where to pick up from.
As an experience, it’s very useful as well as fun. I can see how something like this can really encourage youngsters to be more respectful of the roads and cars, and if this helps to keep things that bit safer for new road users, then I’m all for it!
For more information, please visit https://www.youngdriver.eu/home
Disclosure – we were guests of Young Driver and Firefly for the purposes of this review. All opinion is our own. We can not be held responsible for damage caused to plastic cones or otherwise.