AN 11-year-old at the wheel of the car may sound like a terrifying prospect.
But – keen to instil road safety sense from an early age – that’s exactly what will be happening as part of a new Edinburgh experiment.
The Capital’s first Young Driver event will see pupils test their clutch control on a specially designed course at the Royal Highland Showground.
Unleashed in dual-control cars the novice motorists will get to test their mettle on a specially built realistic streetscape.
Kim Stanton, marketing director of Young Driver, said the driving tasters set safe benchmarks at an early age.
She said: “There is a fun element to it. Not many 11-year-olds even contemplate the idea of getting behind the wheel of a car, and we get all sorts of different reactions. Some are very anxious.
“You can tell by the look on their faces. They don’t know what is going to happen or whether they are going to be able to do it. Within a few minutes they are giving their parents a quick glance and by the time they have passed them two or three times, they are waving.”
Driving on a road system with traffic signs, youngsters are encouraged to consider responsible driving.
Reece Buttery, 12, star of Christmas hit Gangsta Granny and CBBC’s The Dumping Ground, is a poster boy for Young Driver – a national campaign group.
He pointed out that the younger people start to learn, the less likely they are to have picked up bad driving habits.
He said: “I have had a few lessons now, and they’re great fun but I’m also very aware that I’m learning some hugely important skills.
“I’d urge anyone aged between and 11 and 16 to give it a go. It’s a brilliant experience. You get to do everything you would in a driving lesson at 17, in a dual-controlled car.”
The sessions may be fun – but there is also a serious side to them. Two out of ten newly qualified drivers crash within six months of passing their test, rising to 40 per cent among 17-year-old males.
Only eight per cent of drivers are aged between 17 and 24 but they account for a worrying 30 per cent of people who are killed in cars every year.
However, for those who have taken a Young Driver course, the rate of accidents in the first six months after passing their test drops by more than a half to fewer than one in ten.
Kim added: “By starting at a younger age you can more easily focus on attitude and behaviour and you have a better chance of tackling a young person’s sense of invulnerability.”
The team has had 80 Edinburgh bookings so far, for the course on Saturday, May 10 Of these, about 60 per cent are boys and 40 per cent girls. Drivers are scored on their ability – with the top UK-wide taking part in a competition to be held in September.