Learning to drive in safety
I have three granddaughters, aged fourteen, twelve and five. I have seen the five year old behind the wheel of a go-kart at an adventure park, and believe me, you don’t want to get anywhere near, either front or back, because she has no sense of direction despite a desire to go as fast as possible. Don’t get close to the kart, that’s the message. However, the other two are different, receptive, and ready to go, hence we treated them to a young driver experience at the Castle Combe race track in Wiltshire. This has been here since 1950, and is still an actively used race circuit, adapting to other uses when required, such as race driving experiences, and taking your own car round on specific days. It can also be hired by car clubs. I have yet to meet anyone who has a youngster under seventeen who has experienced anything remotely similar, a first driving experience in a controlled environment. There are about a dozen of these days during the year, all during school holidays of one kind or another, and also when the track is not being used for racing purposes. It was very easy to book, the directions to the track are straightforward, so we arrived on a chilly but fortunately dry very early November day. Report time was noon for driver briefing, then the girls were allocated their instructors. These people are all full time driving instructors, fully qualified and checked with the criminal reference bureau. The cars are small Ford, dual controlled, and three same sex youngsters for each car, so my two shared with another young lady. From the very beginning, it was in at the deep end. Instructor sat in front passenger seat, my 14 year old behind the wheel, while he went through the basics, pedals, instruments, mirrors, etc., and then it was off they went. He assisted with the clutch control, otherwise it would have been too much for them to assimilate, each young lady took turns over the next two hours to take turns driving round the restricted paddock area, which had been marked out as a road, with roundabout, traffic cones, and junctions. After a half hour break, it was then back on the road again, this time on the track, with each young driver having twenty minutes. My 14 year old managed 70mph, taking the racing line round the circuit, nothing dangerous, all under expert supervision. The 12 year old was more cautious, but still more than proficient. Afterwards, it was back in the classroom for driver de-briefing, and also the merit certificates were awarded. During the whole afternoon, no-one did anything silly, all behaved responsibly, it was something completely different that I wish had been available when I first started driving fifty years ago. There is a lot of standing around in the cold for the adults, on the other hand, the looks on their faces made it all worth-while. So, what did they think of their first attempt at driving? A big hug from each, with a kiss and a ‘thank you granddad’ said it all. I am in emotional credit for a long time to come.