Should Driving be Taught in School?

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Young Driver – an organisation that offers driving experiences for children aged 11 and over – has launched a petition to introduce both theoretical and practical driving knowledge into the school curriculum. Major driving institutions including the RAC are reportedly backing the campaign, but should driving really be taught in schools? Could pre-17 lessons be advantageous for youngsters?

Why Launch a Petition?

The organisation has launched the petition as they strive to address the high accident rates for young drivers in the UK. It’s believed that around 400 people die each year in accidents initiated by young drivers and those who have recently passed their test, which suggests that on-the-road experience plays a significant role in road safety. Young Driver are specifically targeting school-aged children who are typically more responsive in terms of learning than older teenagers and 20-somethings.

We’ve all heard the saying ‘you can’t teach an old dog new tricks’ – and there is a bit of truth to this, according to scientists. Researchers claim that children’s brains store memories differently to adults, which is why it’s often so much easier for children to not only learn new information, but also recall that information at a later date. It’s why children tend to pick up languages more easily, for example. Young Driver hopes that by targeting children while they’re most responsive to new information, they can help to reduce accident figures for new drivers in the future, and help to improve road safety.

Could it Work?

Belief that introducing driver training into school curricula is based on early research which suggests that teaching driving knowledge from a young age could reduce the risk of accidents. Independent research has been conducted in the UK which shows 50 percent fewer accidents among new drivers when taught from a young age, while pre-17 lessons are becoming more common in Europe, with Sweden leading the way with this revolutionary idea. Swedes can begin learning from 16 – two years before they can legally take their driving test. Since this scheme was launched, it is reported that accidents, injury, and death among young drivers has been reduced by 40 percent.

Potential Issues

Of course, there are certainly two sides to this coin. One potential issue that’s worth considering is that much of the knowledge will be delivered within a classroom setting – teaching theoretical skills such as speed awareness, for example. Theory is a major component of the UK driving test, but in normal circumstances the knowledge is delivered alongside practical, on-the-road lessons. It’s all about experiential learning. You wouldn’t learn to cut hair by reading a book, would you?

A further issue that we must consider is how we would teach children about driving. While school-aged children tend to be more responsive towards new information, they’re also very easily influenced, which is why we have to be very careful about how we approach driving. Young Driver, for example, offer driving-based birthday parties, that they advertise with phrases such as ‘style’ and ‘envy’. It’s important that children don’t grow up thinking that driving is about being ‘cool’ or showing off. Driving is about being practical, responsible, and safe. Ultimately, teaching driving skills to youngsters may be beneficial, but as yet it appears we don’t have a suitable model for teaching.