BIRMINGHAM, England – Two youngsters who can’t yet drive legally on the roads are celebrating after beating hundreds of others from across Britain to be crowned the UK's Best Young Drivers.
SHOULDN'T THEY BE IN SCHOOL? The Young Driver programme in the UK allows children as young as 11 to participate and that has a knock-on effect on their parents' driving behaviour. Image: Supplied
Neither Troy Hickling, 16, from Leicester who was first in the 14-16 age category nor Hannah Tripp, 13, from Cheddar in Somerset in the 11-13 age category, is old enough to hold a driving licence.
Each won a class in the national finals of the 2014 Young Driver Challenge at the Birmingham National Exhibition Centre, crowned overall champions by judges from the UK's Institute of Advanced Motorists who praised their vehicle control, precise manoeuvring and quick thinking at the wheel.
BEST IN 'CLASS'
More than 350 youngsters entered the competition organised by Young Driver, the UK’s largest provider of driving tuition for under-17's, and Troy and Hannah were among the 40 who made it to the finals that were open to those aged 11 to 16.
As well as being marked on their practical driving in a dual-controls car at one of Young Driver’s 33 venues, the entrants were also judged on their performance in the Goodyear Driving Academy, an online driving simulator which tests a youngsters’ knowledge of the Highway Code.
For winning their age categories, Hannah and Troy each took home the top prize of 20 Young Driver lessons, 20 on-the-road post-age 17 driving lessons courtesy of Goodyear, a Young Driver at School session for them and their classmates and £500 (the equivalent of R8835) off a car insurance premium courtesy of Young Driver sponsor Admiral.
Hannah said afterwards: "It was an amazing feeling even to be in the final. To then learn I'd won my age category was just incredible. It was quite a challenging test and we knew the judges were marking our ability based on a lot of different driving skills and manoeuvres.
Troy added: “It was a great day and I was stunned to win. It’s reassuring to know I’m doing so well, and all this experience will obviously be a huge help when I come to learn on the road aged 17. I’m looking forward to all my classmates being able to try out the Young Driver experience as part of my prize.”
One of the judges, IAM director of standards Mark Lewis, added: “Young people are often labelled as risky drivers but Troy, Hannah - all the entrants - showed they can achieve the highest standards of driving safety.
“There is a small amount of research to suggest that those who undertake driver training at an early age pass their driving test first time. It would seem that while they may have less on-road driver training once they obtain their provisional licence their attitudes to safe driving remain unchanged by peer pressure.
“I heard two parents discussing how their own driving habits had been altered by their children. One mum said her son was now pointing out her bad driving habits and particularly encouraging her to drive within speed limits.
“Here we see a reversal of the trend where children learn their driving behaviour at a very early age from watching their parents. We are now seeing that parents are being corrected by their children who have undertaken the Young Driver programme.“This could have a huge effect on road safety.”