Driving lessons for 5-year-olds?

How do you turn a teenager into a better driver? One UK company has an idea: 'When you're learning piano or violin, you don't start at 17; you start at 5.'

As parents, we want only the best for our grammar-school progeny: Healthful, organic lunches. Chemical-free, fair-trade artisan toys. Exposure to rich cultural experiences. The very finest in professional driving instruction.

Yes, that last one, too. UK company Young Driver gives driving lessons to children as young as 11, and starting very soon, they'll teach kids as young as 5. To do that, they're building a special car.

Richard Smith is chief instructor for the driving school, which offers lessons all over Great Britain to kids not yet legal for on-the-road instruction.

"When you're learning piano or violin, you don't start at 17," he notes, "you start at 5."

His point is well taken, as are his lessons, and graduates of Young Driver's programs have a 9 per cent accident rate once they've obtained their license, as compared to 20 per cent in the general populace.

"There's a reason that our title sponsor is an insurance company," he notes.

Callum McNeilly, a 13-year-old from Swadlincote, Derbyshire, has been taking lessons for 18 months.

He says of his experience, "I love cars and wanted to take a step into actually driving a real car as opposed to using a steering wheel on a gaming console."

Because roads are off-limits, Young Driver gives lessons on private property, usually car parks that are unused on the weekends (including the staff lot for Bentley Motors in Crewe, though training is in dual-control, manual shift Skoda Citigos).

During these lessons, students learn things such as dealing with intersections, two-way traffic, roundabouts and traffic signals, parallel parking and even slalom courses.

For advanced tweens, there are half-day courses on local tracks to practice emergency braking, inclement-weather driving and some slightly higher-speed manoeuvers.

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