With one in five qualified drivers (21%) admitting they don’t like driving on motorways, the UK’s largest pre-17 driving school has announced it is launching its first motorway lessons for children aged 10 and upwards.
Young Driver conducted research with 1000 motorists which revealed that many drivers on the roads are nervous about driving on highways.
A fifth (20%) admitted they felt more vulnerable, with a fear that things could go wrong very quickly. One in seven (14%) even went so far as to plan their journeys to avoid motorways whenever possible.
In South Africa, News24 reported that Minister of Transport Blade Nzimande had announced an increase in the number of fatalities experienced on the roads during the 2017/18 festive season.
According to figures, 1 286 car accidents were recorded during the 2018/2019 festive season, which resulted in 1 612 fatalities.
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Highway driving is not currently a legal requirement of learning to drive in the UK or in South Africa, although since June 2018, qualified instructors can take learners for lessons on highways if they choose to do so in the UK. Almost a third of drivers (29%) felt there wasn’t enough focus on motorways whilst learning to drive.
Young Driver’s Motorway Driving Experience offers youngsters aged 10 to 17 the opportunity to learn to drive at up to 112km/h on a full-sized motorway, which is usually used to train drivers for the emergency services. Lessons take place in a dual control Vauxhall Corsa with a fully qualified instructor.
Getting South African children behind the wheel at an earlier stage sounds like a great idea and would most certainly make better drivers, and in turn, would possibly prevent more road crashes on local roads.
Parent24 editor Sophia Swanepoel says: "What a fantastic initiative. The UK’s highways are arguably safer than ours! Imagine if South African children can get exposure to driving lessons from the age of 10 – provided they’re tall enough to see over the steering wheel and their legs can reach the pedals.
"By the time they get their licence at the age of 18, they’ll be more confident and safe on our roads. I’m not sure I’ll unleash them on our highways before they have a licence though! But if they’re good drivers by the time they’re 18, increasing speed and moving onto highways shouldn’t be a problem."
Wheels24's Janine Van der Post also thinks it's imperative that children should be made aware of how roads work and how vehicles operate from a young age.
Van der Post says: "I have a 4-year-old and just last week I told her father that I want her to drive by the time she's nine or 10. It was said in jest at the time, but I genuinely want her to be independent on the road and as confident from as young as possible.
"More importantly, I want her to be able to get understand driver behaviour and to anticipate the next person's actions. If we could legally get teens learning to drive before the legal age and making them aware of the dangers on the road, it would contribute to safer drivers and a lower annual death toll."
Laura White, head of marketing for Young Driver, said: "Our research shows many UK motorists still feel nervous about driving on motorways, so it seems sensible to start introducing youngsters to the skills needed from an early age. We already know that pre-17 driver education can create a safer newly qualified driver, cutting the accident rate in that all important first six months by a half.
"But given some new drivers can pass their test having never put a tyre on a motorway, it’s no wonder our major roads can be something that concerns them as new drivers and for years to come. Actually, the motorways are some of our safest roads – but obviously there are different skills needed when driving on them."