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Driving a Car Before You Are 17

Did you know you can drive a car with a driving instructor before you are 17?  There are a number of centres around the country where you can have driving lessons for under 17 year olds as soon as you are old enough for your feet to touch the pedals?

We are not talking about fun days, but centres where you will have proper driving lessons on roads with traffic signs and layouts as similar as possible to those you'll find when you start driving for real.  You will be taught by a qualified driving instructor, and will be taught the official DSA (driving Standards Agency) syllabus.

Apart from fun - what are the benefits of Under 17 Driving Lessons?

You will learn how to start the car and move off in safe conditions.  If you stall there are no other drivers getting impatient - the only people you'll be sharing the road with will be other learners! 
You will learn how to change gears, use the indicators, brake and manouver in a calm environment, and gain some understanding of the rules of the road.  You might even be able to continue with the same instructor when you reach 17 and start driving on the public roads.  When you start your proper lessons you'll be able to concentrate on how to drive with other cars and hazards around you - without being worried how to change gear and how to steer!  You will have more confidence, which will hopefully help you pass your test quicker.

Some driving schemes, such as the Young Drivers Scheme in Essex run monthly - half a dozen lessons before your 17th birthday will pay dividends when you eventually get on the road.  Monthly driving lessons are probably the best interval.  I suggest that starting too early will result in boredom, as thereís only so many things you can learn and practice without being able to drive on the public road.  But six or more lessons can provide that all important preparation.  Driving theory should be part of the instruction which should help prepare for the real driving test, and also more importantly for teenagers to understand the basics of road signs and instructions when they do get on the road.  If youíve ever tried playing a board game without reading the instructions youíll know that practical driving skills are nothing unless you understand the rules of the road.

Driving lessons for under 17 year olds are endorsed by the police as road awareness and experience helps make for safer drivers.

You should be given a Driver's Record, which the instructor will complete at the end of each lesson.  This marks you on the key skills you will need to master before you'll be able to pass your test. 
This is a sample of the Driver Record recommended by the DSA. 
The Driver's record is a list of 24 skills that you will need to have mastered before you will be able to pass your test.  The levels the skills are assess at are:

level one - the skill is introduced

level two - it can be carried out under full instruction

level three - it can be carried out correctly when prompted

level four - it rarely needs to be prompted

level five - you can carry it out all the time without any prompting

When you are 17 and start your lessons on the public roads you can give your driver's record to your instructor.  S/he will know exactly what you've already learned, and so can continue your lessons from there.  Nothing you have learned pre 17 will be wasted. 
Apart from the fact driving lessons before you are 17 are to help you eventually pass your driving test -  they are a lot of fun! 
When the day comes and itís your first real driving lesson you will be more relaxed knowing that you already have basic car control skills.  Many police forces support driving lessons for under 17 year olds, believing that they give teenagers additional training.  Most accidents happen due to the inexperience and over confidence of young drivers - having these extra lessons helps develop your knowledge of how to drive and cope with hazards.

Note for Parents:

Children learn by having role models.  Parents who donít drink and drive, keep to speed limits and drive carefully and conscientiously with due regard for other road users will be passing these habits onto their children.  We all want to keep our children safe, and itís terrifying the first time your child drives off, unaccompanied, in their own car.  By preparing them as well as we can, by giving them support and as much tuition and driving training as possible we can lesson the chances of them being involved in a serious accident.

To find if there is a centre near you a good contact is the Road Safety department of your local county council.  Check that the driver instructors are ADI (advanced Driving Institute) qualified.  Local driving schools will also be a good source of information.  The list below shows a number of under 17 driving courses held across the country.

Under 17 driving courses

This is a sample of some of the under 17 driving courses which are offered all over the country.  If you know of another centre please let me know and I will add it. 

Newcastle on Tyne
North Somerset
South London
Surrey - Dusfold Park
Surrey - Guildford
West Midlands
West Midlands
See also:

Starting Driving Lessons
Choosing a Driving Instructor
The Theory Test
The Practical Driving Test
Practice Driving
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