The country’s largest pre-17 driving school is celebrating an increase in sales of more than 30 per cent over the last year.
Almost 150,000 Young Driver lessons were sold in 2017, as a growing number of parents signed children as young as 10 up to start learning to drive. Over 550,000 lessons have been sold since the scheme launched in 2009.
To cope with the increase in demand, Young Driver opened 14 new sites last year, including its first in Northern Ireland. Other sites launched in 2017 included Rotherham, Cambridge, Leicester and Croydon. The scheme now employs the equivalent of 54 full time staff, when the number of driving instructor hours involved are calculated.
Vauxhall became a sponsor of Young Driver in July 2017, and with the introduction of new Corsas for the youngsters to drive, the fleet size increased by 20 per cent. A fleet of 165 dedicated cars are now used to carry out events across the country.
Young Driver offers those aged between 10 and 17 the opportunity to get behind the wheel of a dual control Vauxhall Corsa, with a fully qualified driving instructor, at more than 50 venues. Realistic road systems are created, with everything from roundabouts to junctions, allowing young people to start learning the skills required behind the wheel, giving them the opportunity to gain much of the necessary experience without the additional pressures of being on a real road. Specific areas to enable them to practice manoeuvres and control are also created, included steering, reversing and parking.
The scheme plans to continue its growth in 2018, with the launch of 13 Super-Sites. New and existing sites will be grown to offer additional facilities for youngsters, including the introduction of traffic lights, as well as the chance to reach higher speeds, and practice moving up into the top gears.
Research shows that learning to drive at a younger age can half the accident risk of a newly qualified driver. One in five typically has an accident in the first six months after passing their test and every year 400 people are killed in the UK in accidents involving young drivers.
Laura White, head of marketing at Young Driver, said: “Parents seem to be recognising that getting their children that extra experience can really make a difference when it comes to keeping them safe. It’s reported that the number of 17-24 year olds learning to drive has dropped by 20 per cent in just a decade, and less than half of that age group have a full driving licence – which could have huge consequences for the car industry. By getting youngsters enthused about driving, hopefully we’ll be creating a new generation of motoring fans – however, with the added benefit of having that extra experience before they take to the road, making them a safer and more responsible driver.”
Quentin Willson, motoring journalist and transport campaigner, added: “Young Driver’s 30 per cent increase in lessons shows that the decline in kids wanting to learn to drive and own cars isn’t as widespread as some say. Early pre-teen training gives confidence for on-road lessons and takes some of the fear out of battling to pass a test. Having a licence helps with college, university and jobs and early driving training will help give the next generation of drivers vital safety skills and future job opportunities.”
As well as offering lessons for 10-17s in the Vauxhall Corsas, Young Driver also provides lessons for five to 10 year olds in the specially created Firefly electric car. Lessons take place at selected venues. Driving lessons can also be offered to people of all ages with a wide range of disabilities.