It’s 6½ years until he can take his driving test but Isaac’s first Young Driver lesson was a worthwhile investment.
Young Driver offers a variety of lessons and experiences for youngsters aged between five and 17. Budding Lewis Hamiltons aged ten and over and 1.42 metres or more in height (4′ 8″ in old money) can try their hand at driving a proper road-legal car. (There are also smaller, specially designed cars that can be driven by children aged between five and ten.)
This has been high on Isaac’s wish-list since we discovered Young Driver at Gadget Show Live a couple of years ago. What better present for a car-mad ten-year-old?
As his session drew closer, Isaac grew simultaneously more excited and more apprehensive. On the day, we pitched up half an hour early. This was a good move as it gave him the opportunity to get the lie of the land and watch other kids in action before his turn.
The temporary driving course was located in a car park at Newbury Racecourse, creating a small road network complete with slalom sections. Each driver takes the wheel of a Vauxhall Corsa (or similar) equipped with dual controls to prevent accidents. After getting comfortable in the car and familiarising himself with the controls, he set off.
Isaac is a naturally cautious type but he was soon capably taking corners and building his confidence driving at speed. Okay, he was only doing about 15mph. But to a ten-year-old in control of a car for the first time it probably felt more like bombing down the Mulsanne Straight at Le Mans. It definitely helped that he had a friendly, patient instructor who quickly put him at ease.
At the end of his lesson, he emerged with a huge grin and asked when he could book another session. He even offered to pay out of his own savings.
I think that qualifies as a success.
Isaac was given a booklet summarising what he’d achieved and offering some pointers to focus on. Young Driver offers a six-level course which kids can complete at their own pace. Of course, it’s a mechanism to encourage customers to return. But it’s also a great way for Isaac to chart his achievements and see what he needs to do to complete each stage.
There’s not a lot to it from a spectator’s point of view but that hardly matters. The Young Driver experience focusses, rightly, on the driver. It’s a great way to build a child’s skills and confidence before they eventually start proper lessons on open roads.
I can remember when I started learning to drive. There is so much to take in and think about when you’re a complete beginner. If I’d had some grounding in basics such as steering and gear-changing first, it would have been far less terrifying.
So yes, we’ll definitely be back with Isaac. It’s very much a matter of ‘when’, not ‘if’. Toby is already dropping hints about what he wants for his tenth birthday. Although I fear that if Isaac is Mr Cautious, Toby will be more like Mr Clarkson …
At the time of writing, a 30-minute lesson costs a very reasonable £36.45 (or £67.95 for an hour). We also paid an extra £14 for a video of Isaac’s session, which provided split-screen images of both the driver and his view. They also cater for birthday parties at an affordable £16.50 per person for a 15-minute session (or £32.50 for 30 minutes).
Young Driver operates at 60 venues around the UK. Check their website https://www.youngdriver.eu for further details.
I was not paid or in any other way incentivised to write this post.