On the weekend, we had the opportunity to let J get behind the wheel of a firefly at YoungDriver. When I heard what Young Driver offer, it brought back memories of my childhood. After telling him he would be driving a firefly, he had been counting down the days. He woke up on Sunday morning bouncing around with excitement, I have never seen him so willing to go get dressed and ready to go out. Once we set off he was constantly chattering and asking the dreaded – are we there yet, all the way down to the Etihad grounds in Manchester.
Driving a Firefly.
When I heard about Young Drivers, and that they offer driving experience for children aged 5 – 17, it brought back memories of my school trip to DECA. They had a little road layout and careful cobbers, little electric cars with an accelerator and brake we got to drive. If you misbehaved though you were put in Mad Max, a little pedal powered car. We learned about road signs and what they meant while in primary school. It was such fun but educational. The educational element for me seemed really effective as it has stayed with me for all these (many) years.
Arriving with no time to spare after navigating around roadworks – typical!, J and I went to book him in while Dave got Ro out of the car. There was an obvious big red bus where we had to book in and fill out the necessary paperwork so off we went. It was quite busy, with both the 5-10 age group and the 10-17 age group running. The carpark was split with an area for the firefly sessions, and the older group, who were driving cars.
Getting behind the wheel.
J was so excited, and asking a million questions to the instructor, the poor guy had the patience of a saint. He was able to divert J’s focus to what he needed to do – I need to learn his technique! After seat adjustments, J was in the driver seat of a little car. He listened to what he needed to do, then they were off. They went around the little road system that had been created, including little road signs. He was shown what to do when he came across Stop and Give Way signs. There was even a little roundabout coned out.
They drove around, going around the outside then into the middle with the give way and stop signs. I could see he was loving every minute of it. He did struggle to concentrate on more than one thing, but he seemed to get the hang of it. After a few laps around and going through the signs, it was swap over time. The instructor got out and it was time for one of us to get in. J decided this had to be Daddy, so in climbed Dave. After Dave got a quick overview of what the controls were from the instructor off they went.
J was free to go around the mini road that had been mapped out, without a prescribed route. This really suited him and his curious mind. With only one other car on the road, it gave him the opportunity to take different turns and practice stopping and giving way. You could see a mixture of concentration and fun in his face as he drove around. He really enjoyed driving around the roundabout the most.
After 20 minutes, his time driving around came to an end. He was excited to find out he was to get his very own licence. He is so proud of getting his licence just like Mummy has and has told everyone since then about it.
More than Fun.
I mentioned earlier the lessons I got from driving in a careful cobber making a life long impression, and now J has walked away from a really fun time with some key road knowledge . He now can tell me what you need to do if you come to a Give Way and Stop Sign and what you need to check for at a roundabout. He has even told me when I’m driving that I need to check for traffic. In my opinion, learning these early can only be a good thing.
We were lucky to get offered this experience, but at £20 for a session driving a firefly, I personally think its worth every pound. When Ro gets old enough, I will be looking to book her a session. Driving and safety on the road has been on my mind recently, as T passed his driving test and now is legal to drive. In my mind any sort of driving education at a younger age has to help keep them safe. Both age group sessions are held throughout the UK, Manchester was one that was close to me.
Based on the fun J had and what he took away from it, I would definitely recommend checking out YoungDriver, and seeing if they do these sessions near you. With Christmas on the way, it’s worth to note they also do gift vouchers.
It is a shame this isn’t done in schools like it was when I was a kid – The careful cobber program in Shepparton was scrapped a number of years ago. J absolutely loved the experience and learned some key information about the road. Not just for when he can drive but when he is old enough to get out on his bike on the road.