What’s the best age to learn to drive? Hint - it’s not 17


 For 120 years, it’s been a legal requirement to be over 17-years old when driving a car on public roads. When driving licences were first introduced in 1903, anyone aged 17 or older could apply – even though they didn’t need to take a test.

However, one driving school is challenging whether 17 is the right age to learn to drive – even if that remains the age you’re allowed on the roads.


Two thirds of driving instructors surveyed by Young Driver (69 per cent) admitted they felt youngsters learn better before they turn 17. The instructors are in a unique position to be able to compare groups, teaching both over 17s on the road and 10-17 year olds at Young Driver’s 70+ private venues across the UK. The scheme specialises in driving lessons and experiences for those not yet of a legal driving age, taking place on private property and with fully qualified instructors.


Young Driver also asked parents and newly qualified drivers themselves about learners’ attitudes to safety and risk at different ages. Eighty two per cent of 2,400 parents questioned thought those aged 10 to 17 were more receptive to messages around risk and safety than over 17s. Over 400 past pupils of the scheme, who are now aged 17 and over, were also surveyed and 84 per cent agreed they were more receptive to road safety messaging at a younger age.  


Those opinions are evidenced by the fact that drivers who have undertaken pre-17 driving lessons with Young Driver are significantly less likely to have an accident in the critical first six months after passing their driving test than the national average – with statistics dropping from one in five to one in 29.


Sue Waterfield, head of marketing at Young Driver, explains: “There are of course sensible reasons we don’t want young people driving on the roads before they reach 17. But that doesn’t mean they can’t start learning to drive before that age. We see it at all of our events – younger children are sponges who soak up all the practical information about how to physically drive, but they’re also very alert to the safety aspects of driving. You can take your time and really help them to feel comfortable with the controls of the car and things like braking distances and blind spots, before they get anywhere near a real road. Then at 17, on the roads, they can focus much more on how to drive safely around other road users. It also helps reduce the time and money spent on tuition once they are old enough to get their provisional licence and take their test.”


Three quarters of the instructors surveyed (74 per cent) said those who had pre-17 driving tuition  usually need fewer on-the-road lessons. Seventy nine per cent of instructors felt they could teach more in an hour at a private Young Driver venue than an hour spent on the road.


Driving instructor Anaya Saddall explains: “When you’re teaching someone aged 17/18, they are not always ‘in the car’ for much of their lesson time. Their minds may not be focused on driving, they are thinking about other stuff – be it work or exams, friends, social media or what they’re doing that evening. Younger kids concentrate and focus – when you deliver a driving lesson to a 12 year old, you can see that their mind is focusing 100 per cent on driving. They are in the moment, not thinking of other things. That’s one reason they often learn more in half an hour than 17 year olds learn in an hour! The older age group also tend to have more preconceived ideas from parents and peers which can add complications.”


For more information about pre-17 driving go to www.youngdriver.com or download the Young Driver app.



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