Back in the summer I was contacted by Admiral Young Driver and offered a free lesson for Luc. My first thought was that at twelve it was not legal for him to learn to drive but then I took the time to read about Admiral Young Driver on their website and decided it was a fantastic opportunity for Luc, so agreed. I decided that it would be nice to surprise Luc with this experience as he had been working so hard in school and dad of 3 agreed.
There are 45 locations in the UK where Admiral Young Drivers is held but unfortunately there are currently only two locations in Wales, the closest one being St Davids Centre in Cardiff. So we then had to look at the dates available to us, which took a bit of juggling as currently they only visit the Cardiff centre once a month on a Sunday and we already had plans for several sundays. However after a bit of moving things around we were able to book Luc’s lesson for the beginning of the summer holidays. With the lesson confirmed we now had to wait. The week before we told the children we would be visiting Cardiff to do some shopping and also to visit Grandma, Luc still had no idea he would be having a driving lesson.
I was excited to see Luc’s reaction when we reached the venue. I knew from the information that lessons are conducted in dual control skonda cars under instruction from a qualified instructor. The lessons take place on special courses, in the case of St David’s Centre, Cardiff, the lessons take part on the top floor of the centre where the young people follow a course around the level. All venues are safe environments on constructed road courses. You have the option to have a 30 minute lesson or a 60 minute lesson where you will learn to start and stop the car, move away, change gears and steer. As you progress through your lessons you will advance and learn more skills such as driving in two way traffic, reverse parking, dealing with junctions and more. Admiral Young Drivers emphasises is on safety, with research showing that encouraging young people to learn over a longer period of time that it halves the likelihood of having an accident when they do pass their driving test. Additionally young people between the ages of 10 and 17 are more receptive to safety messages than those older.
So I expected Luc to have a lesson consisting of the basics as someone over 17 years would do when undertaking their first lesson. I also knew that we would be able to watch some of the lesson although I did think the other three children may get board and I would have to get dad of 3 to take them off for a walk.
When we arrived in Cardiff the children all thought we were just going shopping as we headed for the St David’s Centre, but when we reached the lifts in the centre they started to twig something was a miss as usually we take the esculator up to the second floor and go no further! In the elevator I told Luc that we was going to be having a driving lesson on the top level of the centre. His face was a picture, I wish I had taped his reaction as it was utter surprise and excitement. When we reached the top level we made our way to the desk that had been set up near the lifts and checked Luc in. We were asked if he had been before and Luc said no. The gentleman behind the desk told him who his instructor was for the lesson and gave Luc a handbook which the instructor would complete during the lesson. We then had to take a seat and wait for his lesson slot. I don’t know why but it hadn’t occurred to me that there would be several lessons taking place at the same time, although they varied in length depending on the time booked. There were quite a few others waiting for lessons too and there was limited seating available as it isn’t a venue that operates every week, but we managed to find a couple of seats. There was quite a lot of information available from information about Admiral Young Driver to upcoming dates for lessons and lesson costs in the waiting area.
We didn’t have to wait long because Luc’s instructor came in and called his name. Luc handed me his coat and we all headed outside onto the roof of the centre where the lesson would take place. I asked dad of 3 if he wanted to take the other three for a walk but they all wanted to watch Luc for a while, worried they may distract Luc I explained that they had to behave and not shout out while Luc was driving. Luc had made his way to his car where his instructor kindly let me take some photographs of them next to and in the car. I then made my way back behind the cordon to watch with the others.
I could see Luc’s instructor running through the basics with his while the car was still parked, the checks, mirrors, handbrake, brake, accelerator etc then after ten minutes Luc started the car and started edging forward for the first time. He slowly made his way to the end of the section and turned out of sight. I held my breath, I’m not sure why, maybe it was because my eldest was experiencing driving for the first time and I hadn’t prepared myself for it happening quite yet! A couple of minutes later Luc appeared at the other end of the roof and made his way back towards us, as he drove passed I could see the concentration on his face, I snapped a couple of pictures as he passed, trying not to distract him.
Luc continued going around the course and after a couple of laps I decided to shoot some footage of his driving to show him when we got home. Despite the fact there were at least five other lessons going on during Luc’s lesson no one seemed to be distracted and from what I could see the other drivers like Luc seemed to be enjoying the experience. I could also see that all the drivers were of differing experience and therefore at different stages with their lessons. Although there wasn’t anything for the others to do they enjoyed watching Luc and were very well behaved.
At the end of Luc’s lesson I was amazed when he attempted to reverse park and executed it very well for his first attempt, I also managed to capture it on film! At the end of the lesson I could see the instructor providing feedback and completing the handbook Luc had been given before they exited the car and made their way back to us. Luc was grinning from ear to ear and both he and I thanked the instructor as he went to meet his next young driver. Luc was on a high and asked if he could come again as he had thoroughly enjoyed the lesson. Both dad of 3 and I agreed it was something we would certainly consider, maybe as a birthday or Christmas present due to the distance to the centre.
On the way out we thanked the other instructors at the desk and also enquired if there were plans to open more venues in Wales. We were told that they are always on the lookout for more venues and asked if I know of anywhere suitable. I gave a couple of suggestions but they would need to be checked out, another consideration we were told was that the instructors currently travel from Bristol so the venues have to be accessible to them as well. We explained that as we were based in West Wales is was a two hour drive to the Cardiff venue but if there was one closer we would certainly be interested in booking more lessons. Trystan having watched his brother’s lesson intently was also keen to have a lesson. So we will certainly be keeping an eye out for new venues closer to us. Everyone working at Admiral Young Drivers were so friendly and I could see that they took the time to explain everything thoroughly to the young people having the lesson. The main thing was that Luc thoroughly enjoyed his lesson and is keen to have more. Luc thoroughly enjoyed his lesson and said it was the best experience he’s had. I hope he will be able to draw on this experience in the future and fingers crossed he will get to have another Young Driver lesson. I personally think it’s a fantastic idea and that the lessons help give young people more experience behind the wheel which is vital when it comes to driving. Even now some weeks later Luc is still talking about his lesson and he has even tried to impart his knowledge to me!
Here is some footage I took of Luc’s lesson
Admiral Young Driver lessons cost £34.95 for a half hour lesson and £64.95 for an hours lesson. There are also often offers available if you book so many lessons at the same time. You can even book a Young Driver’s Party which is suitable for school groups, Scouts, Guides and Youth Clubs etc. For more information on Young Driver parties or to find your nearest location please visit www,youngdriver.eu
Disclaimer: We were provided with an hours long Admiral Young Driver’s lesson for the purpose of this post, however the content is 100% my own.