In the driver's seat for the very first time!
So, I can now say that I have officially had my first ever driving lesson, at the age of 16! I know that this isn’t really possible but through research I found am organisation that provides teenagers between the ages of 16 and 19 with the opportunity to learn to drive a car in an off-road environment (in an empty Park and Ride car park). The Essex County Council and Driving Instructors Club Essex are working together in order to be able to bring together a team of qualified driving instructors that are licensed by the DSA as well as dual controlled cars.
I booked one of the hour sessions, the first 15 minutes of which include a discussion about a certain driving topic in a mobile classroom. Pupils are then taken by their allocated instructor to learn to drive cars - for 45 minutes - around the Chelmer Valley Park & Ride car park. The Park and Ride is closed to the public on Sundays and it’s because this scheme is based in a car park/off-road environment that I can have these lessons whilst under 17 and without a provisional license.
When I arrived, I was handed a collection of useful booklets and guides, including a parental guide for helping your children to learn to drive and a guide on how to stay safe on the roads. I was also given a progress record so that as I continue with lessons my instructor can check off certain points that I need to learn as and when I’m taught and learn them.
It was much easier than I thought
Leading up to my first lesson I was definitely nervous whilst waiting and watching the session before mine. But as soon as I we started the discussion – which for me was focussed on possible distractions as a teenage driver – I soon calmed down. As I was a complete beginner, for the first 10 minutes in the car, I was introduced to the general controls and layout of the car.
During the lesson, I was taught how to carry out a cockpit drill when starting up the car as well as how to use car controls. After we got moving I learnt how to move off with observations, steer an accurate course and stop normally. As I gained confidence driving around the car park I was able to change gears, give signals correctly and use my mirrors effectively – all of which I was worried about as I’m definitely an awful multitasker. Surprisingly I actually managed to pick it up as the lesson progressed, even though I was quite flustered at the beginning.
I’m really glad that I found out about the possibility of starting to have lessons, before I turn 17, as looking back now I would have definitely hated to have my first few lessons on actual roads. The stress of being surrounded by other drivers would have made me even more nervous. Hopefully, after a few of these lessons I will have gained some more of the basic skills and manoeuvres as well as developing some confidence to start actual driving lessons. Then I will be ready for the roads!