Edinburgh children as young as 10 are learning to drive in a Vauxhall Corsa

A 10-year-old driving a Vauxhall Corsa on a proper road might sound a bit unsettling.

Monday, 19th November 2018, 6:03 pm
Updated Tuesday, 20th November 2018, 1:54 pm
A young driver behind the wheel. Pic: Supplied on behalf of young drivers
A young driver behind the wheel. Pic: Supplied on behalf of young drivers

But this is what happens when Edinburgh's Young Driver team hires out a two-mile section of road network for a day at the city's Royal Highland Centre, Ingliston.

Traffic lights, 'stop' junctions and a roundabout all form part of the course, which can have up to 15 cars on it at any time and is aimed at 10 to 17-year-olds.

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A young driver in action. Pic: Supplied on behalf of Young Driver

Lessons are given by qualified instructors in dual-control cars for either 30 minutes or an hour, with children's birthday parties also welcome.

Driving instructor Mark Beaumont says the first driving lessons on the road with 17-year-olds can often be "very nervy" as they continually look down at their feet, adding: "But for these kids’ first time on live roads, they know how the pedals and the clutch work and have no fear of the car whatsoever, and they understand what it can do and its limits.

“If you can eliminate these nerves and give kids that confidence then it’s brilliant.

“If somebody already knows how to control a car before they go on the road for the first time then to a driving instructor, that is gold dust.”

Mark, now a team manager at UK-wide Young Driver, says the minimum height requirement for children to drive the Vauxhall Costa 1.4 SRIs vehicles is 1.42 metres.

Children between the age of five and 10 can also get a taster of driving in small electric cars with top speeds of 10mph.

The older kids also learn how to execute maneuvres such as parallel parking, pulling out from the right side of the road and reversing round the corner.

Mark says many adults will be "amazed" by how well some of these youngsters handle a car.

The 44-year-old added: “They take the lessons and the responsibility of being behind the wheel very seriously - they have fun, but they're learning all the time. That way, by the time they get on the road at 17, they're confident about how to drive a car and don't even have to think about things like changing gear - it all comes naturally. They can do things like parallel parking better than many drivers on the road!

"We often hear parents say that their children start commenting on their driving when they're out and about, so it helps keep them on the straight and narrow too."

And Mark says the driving lessons are not just restricted to the 10 to 17 age group age - anyone of any age can come along.

The course at Ingliston has been running since summer 2014 and only uses fully qualified driving instructors, with the site being hired out for a day.

Mark, who is based in Southampton, added: "You can have up to 15 cars at the same time. If you have two or three cars going round and never come across any other car, it's not quite as realistic, so 15 cars gives the children more opportunity when coming to junctions to have a look and test their observation skills."

He says that as the children drive, they are also asked questions about their driving such as 'what light comes after amber?'

Mark added: "The younger they are, the less fear and more sponge like their brain.

“What we are doing is providing them with a safe learning experience off road and this is completely safe and all cars are dual controlled with fully qualified instructors."

Lessons at Young Driver cost £36.95 for 30 minutes or £67.95 per hour, with party costs subject to numbers and lesson times.

All youngsters keep a driver diary to help the track their progress.

There are also courses in Braehead, Glasgow and in Falkirk and Livingston.

Young Driver was set up initially in 2009 as a couple of events at the Birmingham NEC, off the back of Swedish studies which showed those having lessons before aged 17 were half as likely to have an accident in the first six months of passing their test.

Research in the UK has shown the same reduction, meaning the number of new drivers having an accident is one in 10 compared to the UK average of one in five.

There are now 60 Young Driver locations around the UK.