Driving safety for under-17s

A successful road safety scheme, pioneered in Worcestershire to teach under-17s how to drive, is being launched at Bruntingthorpe proving ground and airfield.  The scheme – StartinYoung – begins in April.

 Paul Atkin, general manager of business development at Bruntingthorpe, said the move was designed to help youngsters preparing to learn to drive and take their test to gain professional tuition in the safety of private roads.  “They won’t be using the test tracks or runway – it’s not all about fast and furious or anything like that.  Youngsters will be in dual-control driving-instruction cars with fully-qualified driving instructors at their side.  They will be using the extensive road network on our 670-acre site, which incorporates junctions with Stop and Give Way signs and many of the features the youngsters will find on public roads when they turn 17 and begin to drive as learners.

 “Safety is something we, as a proving ground, work with constantly and take very seriously.  We can see so many benefits to this scheme that we’ve had no hesitation in agreeing to the organisers using our facilities, which are ideal.”

 The professional driving instructors behind StartinYoung are Malcolm and Hina Dalley, Lorraine Young and Peter Leach.  Peter is chairman of the Worcester & District Driving Instructors’ Association.  They were asked to take over a scheme that Worcestershire County Council had tried to establish when it became clear that the council premises proposed for the driving days were, technically, not private.  However, the instructors found a disused airfield near Pershore and started Sunday lessons early last year with 40 youngsters.

 Today, the monthly sessions attract 150 youngsters who are looked after by 22 instructors, all fully-qualified and CRB-checked.  “Because of the success we decided to look at other areas where no such scheme already exists,” explained Malcolm.  “Bruntingthorpe is the perfect location with an excellent catchment area.  Our first StartinYoung session there will be on Sunday 28th April.   Because May has a number of public holidays we’re not holding a session that month.  However, we resume on the first Sunday in June and will hold monthly Sunday sessions thereafter.”

 He said the only restriction on youngsters was that they had to be tall enough to safely reach the pedals and controls.  “The scheme works with parents bringing their youngsters along.  The drivers are allocated a 1-hour time slot with one of the instructors – all from the local area – for their lesson.  We try to match youngsters to their local instructors so that they can continue, if they wish, after their 17th birthday with lessons on public roads.  The advantage of this is that they will know the instructor and be comfortable with that person.

 “Equally, they will know from the StartinYoung scheme what their feet and hands should be doing – they won’t have to keep looking down and taking their eyes off the road.  Under-age learning is also very beneficial to youngsters who are nervous or who lack self-confidence.  Like any form of training, it builds the person up so that they’re ready for the real thing.”

 Although the emphasis is on under-17s, Malcolm said following the death of her husband a 63-year-old widow had used the Pershore sessions to start to learn to drive.  “She’s due to take her test very soon,” he added.

 Each 1-hour lesson will cost £35 and parents will be able to wait, on site, for their children to complete their lesson.  Malcolm Dalley can be contacted on 07977 140336, at malcolmdalley1@hotmail.com or via the website www.under17driving.eu