Should youngsters learn to drive at 14?

A recent survey carried out by road safety charity Brake revealed that 84% of motorists agree we need a minimum learning period for first time drivers.

More surprisingly, 69% of drivers under 25 are also in favour.

The call came after figures revealed that road accidents are the biggest killer of young people in Britain aged 15-25. Young motorists are also involved in a substantially high number of road accidents that kill and injure road users of all ages.

To combat these shocking statistics and improve driver safety among young motorists, Brake proposes and supports minimal learning periods where learner drivers spend a substantial amount of time with an instructor in various different driving conditions and situations from motorways to night driving.

Senior Campaigns Officer at Brake road safety charity, Ellen Booth said: "We advise minimal learning periods, which would last roughly a year and once drivers have passed their practical test, they will have a restricted license. These restrictions range from a bar on driving during the early hours to not transporting passengers."

It has been argued that there is simply not enough driver education in the national curriculum and this is currently the only way to encourage driver safety among youngsters.

Ellen added: "Brake does not support under 17 or pre-test driver programmes or training schemes. Although these sessions provide extra training, we feel that it prompts over confidence, resulting in young drivers being more inclined to take risks when they reach the roads."

On the other hand, numerous young driver schemes and campaigns believe that the next generation of drivers should be getting behind the wheel between the ages of 11-14 in order to train them how to become competent motorists in preparation for their driving test at the age of 17.

Young Driver, the advanced driving training company for young motorists, says that, "It's a lack of driving experience – not a lack of years on the planet – that causes 1 in 5 newly qualified drivers to crash within 6 months of taking their test".

The Young Driver scheme allows drivers from as young as the age of 11 to get behind the wheel of a new Seat Leon with a fully qualified ADI instructor at one of their UK centres.

Managing Director, Kim Stanton at Young Driver Training Ltd said: "Our aim is to reduce the amount of accidents newly qualified drivers are involved in every year. Last year over 40,000 youngsters between the ages of 11 and 17 had lessons with us. We have been running for just over 3 years and in total over 100,000 lessons have been given at 30 different venues nationwide.

"Each youngster is given a drive diary and every time they have a lesson their progress is recorded and signed by the ADI and stamped. This is based on the DSA regulations for teaching young people. Our driving areas are laid out to resemble the road systems using roundabouts, T-junctions, reversing areas, road traffic signs and traffic lights.

"All cars are brand new and dual controlled SEATs and all instructors are qualified ADI's, CRB checked and we have a child protection policy. Our instructors go through an induction training with us to be able to teach this younger age group."

Kim Stanton added: "The national average is that 1 in 5 new drivers will crash within 6 months. We have been following our students after they've passed their practical test and our research shows that less than 1 in 10 drivers who have had at least 6 lessons with us have had an accident in the same time period. We believe the more time spent behind the wheel, the better and safer drivers will be when they reach the public roads at 17."

It's been argued that when the UK's future drivers take to the roads at 17, they are only being taught how to pass a test and not necessarily how to drive.

Speaking in Parliament about young drivers and road safety, Quentin Willson said: "Teaching kids to drive at 17 is at their least receptive age. Their mindsets are already corrupted and corroded by video games like Grand Theft Auto and the worst excesses of Top Gear.

"Raging testosterone doesn't help either and even the most powerful road safety messages get lost in the teenage red mist. Teach them when they're 14, when mindsets are much purer, and any road safety messages will be far better received and engagement will be greater."

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