First time excitement learning to drive with Young Driver

When I heard about courses where children could learn to drive and then spotted that under 10s had their own version, I realised that it would make a perfect Christmas present for N.  But I was offered a review session so the 2 became one. N went on his Firefly lesson the other day.

If you’ve not come across Young Driver before, they’re an organisation who offer driving lessons for under 17s.  The ethos being that teaching children to drive before they’re of legal road driving age, they are more aware of the safety aspect, have had more driving time, and are therefore safer on the roads once they pass their test.  Young Drivers take 10-17 year olds out on tracks in normal cars.  And in some locations younger children, age 5-10 can try a smaller car – the Firefly.

1st driving experience with young driver - bubbablue and me

Booking a Firefly Young Driver lesson

I have to admit, before the review session came up, it was painful trying to book.  I’d been looking out for Sunday sessions at one of four locations near us, of which there were few. But even the Saturday sessions were fully booked.  Because the Firefly cars go round the different venues all over the country, it means only a certain number of dates get released each time, so they do book up fast.  Not all Young Driver venues have the Firefly car – our nearest venue stopped doing them so instead we managed to book at Bicester Heritage 30 minutes away.  I’d tried to book online, so it might be easier if you phone to book.

If you’re booking for a gift, you can book specific sessions or a gift voucher, and I could print out the booking to give to N.  He was so excited to see what it was. Give a boy a vehicle to drive and he’ll be happy.

Young driver reception sign

On the day

Bicester Heritage is easy to get to, on the edge of Bicester.  As you drive in you see lots of old vehicles – we’re going to have to return on one of the open days.  The road track is where the normal cars go round and this was packed. I was expecting a handful of cars going round, but no, there were a lot more.  N wanted to know why he couldn’t go in those cars. Er, you’re 4-5 years too young.

old grey tractor
This wasn’t what N was going to drive

The Firefly track was set up in an area near the car park.  It’s just a cordoned off area with cone set up for the road. Road signs and a mini roundabout are there too, although none of the children were taking any note of the actual signs.

young driver firefly car track of cones

Sessions are 20 minutes long and staggered at 10 minute intervals with 2 children driving at once.  On arrival you register your child, and fill in a safety form, then they’re on. There’s an ‘instructor’ each to tell the child about the car, and how to drive it.  They go in with the child until they’re confident the child isn’t going to run out of the track area or crash into anything, and then a parent can swap places and be driven round.

white young driver firefly car

N’s instructor took him round 1.5 laps, stopping at various points to show what and where he could go.  Then it was my turn to get in.  I was expecting him to be with the instructor for longer, but she was happy he was safe in it.  (unlike the other child going round at the same time – his parents obviously didn’t want to get in with him – he was a little gungho with his driving, going straight over cones and not really looking out for signs or the other car).

young driver firefly car driving on a track of cones

Even though I’ve watching N driving vehicles of some sort since he was 2 ½ years old (battery gator, quad bike, with help his godfather’s car), it’s still strange to see your 6 year old driving a miniature car.

The Fireflies are electric powered, with an ignition key, forward and reverse button, and accelerator pedal.  I’d been expecting a brake pedal, but they just had to lift their foot up to stop the car.  Really there wasn’t much to go wrong.

inside the firefly young driver car

N absolutely loved it.  I’m not sure he needed to hang out the side, going round the corners like a racing driving.  But he could have stayed in the car for another 20 minutes given the choice.

Most of the session N just drove round and round, up and down the different ‘roads’ and off the roundabout. We saw the other boy being talked through reverse parking so N decided he wanted a go. Even with me in the car, he knew which way to turn the wheel, and straightened up perfectly line up in the spot.  The other ‘instructor’ spotted him and came over to see how well he could do it.  I got out, and he did it himself perfectly again.  She was pretty impressed.  I suppose there’s not many of his age who can manoeuvre a car at the first time of trying.

After N’s session was over, he parked up and turned the car off.  He was then given his own driving licence which he was very proud of (supposedly it’s better than his friend’s driving licence from Legoland, because this one looks more like a proper licence).

The verdict

N loved it. Every child we saw finishing had a huge grin, and parent passengers all seemed happy too.  With speeds up to 10mph, the Young Driver session certainly gives children a feel for what they can start off in before moving up to proper cars when they’re older.

The price isn’t too bad. At the time I was looking it was just under £20, the prices must have just gone up as the website is now just over £21.  For 20 minutes of driving I think that’s reasonable.

I think my expectation was a little too high.  I’d expected more than a drive round without any indicators or brakes etc. Maybe with the children using the road signs and being told to stop and start, and start to learn some of the road rules.  I’d also expected a larger track for them.

For N it was 20 minutes of fun, just driving round and a chance to take me with him.  For other children who’ve never driven any vehicle then the basic driving may be more of a challenge so maybe that’s why it is still so basic rather than having more controls.

I think Young Driver are providing a great opportunity for older children, and for the younger ones, it’s some fun to start off their interest.  I just wish they’d had things like this when I was a child. A go kart really isn’t the same!

Have your children enjoyed something like a Young Driver lesson before?

Pink Pear Bear We're going on an adventure

Disclosure: We were given a review lesson for the purpose of review. All words and opinions are my own.

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12 thoughts on “First time excitement learning to drive with Young Driver

  1. I love the idea of a Young Driver experience. It’s a great way to get kids behind the wheel at a younger age and start to build up their confidence! Thank you for joining us at #bigpinklink

  2. This sounds really interesting, I bet my daughter would love something like this when she is a little older. #triedtested

  3. This looks like so much fun! I thought it was only for over 10s but will look to see if anywhere local does it to suit my younger aged children #triedtested

  4. I would have found that booking process extremely frustrating too – sounds like it was worth it in the end. I get the impression from your review that the Firefly sessions are more for novelty value than for really getting to learn to drive like the older ones you mentioned?
    Thanks for linking up with #TriedTested this week x

    1. It’s definitely not a driving lesson and more for fun. I think I was expecting more of a first stage – in introducing some of the rules and how to drive taking care. Our experience wasn’t that, and I suppose it makes sense given the different level of children from age 5 to 10 taking part. It was good in having more time than you would get at something like a fairground go karting go, but what they were doing was pretty much just going round the track. It may be different at the different venues though.

  5. Sounds like a great idea to get Children familiarised with the basics rather than thrown into an unknown world at 17. A good confidence boost and fun too. Sounds like your little one loved it. And i was surprised by the reasonable price. #bigpinklink

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