The search is on for the best drivers from across the country – but unusually, those behind the wheel have to be under 17.
In fact, entrants to the Young Driver Challenge 2017 can be aged just 10, so up to seven years before they can take their test, or even drive a car on public roads.
The competition is run by Young Driver, which is the country’s largest provider of pre-17 driving tuition, having given over 400,000 lessons at more than 40 venues across Britain.
Until the end of July, instructors at all of Young Driver’s venues are on the hunt for the best youngsters to put forward to a national final which will take place at the NEC in Birmingham on September 30th.
Forty finalists will compete in two categories – 10-13 years and 14-16. The Challenge aims to encourage youngsters to consider responsible and safe driving, with top marks given to those who show the best levels of control and awareness.
Entrants drive a real, dual-control car, with a fully qualified driving instructor, and are marked on driving skills and manoeuvres, including parallel parking, independent driving, emergency stops, steering, judgement and positioning. Prizes on offer include both pre and post-17 driving lessons and £500 off an Admiral car insurance policy.
Kim Stanton, who heads up Young Driver, said: “We’re delighted to be running the Challenge for the fourth year. In previous years our judges, which include ex-police drivers and advanced instructors, have been stunned to see how good these youngsters are, and the level of responsibility they show behind the wheel. These awards give us a great opportunity to show the wider public that too!
“The aim of Young Driver has always been to create a safer next generation of drivers, and the way to do that is to start teaching youngsters over a longer period of time and from a younger age. Research shows this can half the accident rate when it comes to them passing their test, as by the time they’re on the roads they have mastered the mechanics of driving and can concentrate more on interactions with other road users.”
Teen expert Nicola Morgan, is an award-winning author and international speaker, specialising in writing for and about adolescent development, performance and wellbeing, including the books ‘Blame My Brain’ and ‘The Teenage Guide to Stress’. She explains further: “The brain learns to do anything well by repetition. Every time we repeat an activity, whether mental or physical, we are actually creating and then strengthening physical pathways between neurons (nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord), which allow us to become confident, fluent and expert in something. The more times we do something, the stronger those pathways become; the stronger they become, the more ‘automatic’ the skills in question become.
“There is a danger in learning to drive in a short space of time and with the minimum repetitions needed to pass the test but not to become expert.
“The skills required to drive confidently and safely (especially while distracted) have not been firmly embedded as neural pathways in the brain. Without these strong pathways, a huge amount of focus goes on the things that should be automatic (such as gear-changing and position in road) leaving less focus for noticing and dealing with sudden road changes, such as another driver stopping suddenly.”
For more information about entering the Young Driver Challenge 2017, log on to www.youngdriver.com.