Saturday, 24 March 2018

JJ, Age 14 Reviews the Young Driver Experience at Bluewater, Kent

boy in front of young driver sign

Today we took the 90 minute drive from our home on the South-east coast up to Bluewater, the massive shopping centre in Kent. Shopping wasn't our main reason for the visit though, no today was about JJ enjoying one of his Christmas gifts. He had received a gift voucher for a 1 hour Young Driver experience and he was super keen to get behind the wheel of the car.

He's nearly 15 but hasn't tried out driving before so we had no idea how well he would take to it. On the one hand he is very intelligent and takes in information really easily but on the other this was the kid who had occupational therapy for a few years as he could hardly balance and had no spacial awareness. I need not have worried though as JJ took to it like a duck to water.

young driver lessons
Off they go to start the lesson

What are Young Driver Lessons?

If your child is between 10 and 17 years of age they can sign up for a 30 or 60 minute lesson at one of over 60 venues across the UK. Young Driver have been giving lessons since 2009, delivering over 500,000 lessons with hand-picked, DBS checked instructors. The cost is £36.95 for a 30 minute lesson or £67.95 for a 60 minute lesson. I also see that they do birthday party packages and I think the price of £66 for a 15 minute lesson for four children is excellent. Do keep your eyes peeled on money saving sites too, as I've spotted a number of special offers around.


Booking your Young Driver Lesson
The website is really good and easy to use. Click the book now button and then choose whether you want your child to have a lesson in a classic manual car (dual control of course) or an automatic and then choose the date, time and venue and it's as simple as that.

I received an email confirmation and there was a certificate I could download and print out to give to my son as a gift, that was a really nice extra. The email also contained a mobile number that is active on the days of lessons and directions for getting to the venue.

young driver hospitality area

What can you expect?
You need to arrive 10/15 minutes before the scheduled time of your lesson and there was a big double decker bus for us to check-in on. That's a nice quirky touch and you can sit upstairs in the (relative) warm and enjoy a value cup of coffee whilst watching your child if you fancy. If I'm honest our check-in was probably the least impressive part of the experience as the workers were not very friendly or dynamic and the bus is quite well worn. However, it didn't matter at all as that was not what we were here for.

young driver corsa car

We'd arrived early and luckily (for us) Paul (JJ's Instructor) last trainee had not turned up, so JJ was able to start his lesson early. They headed over to the Vauxhall Corsa 1.4 SRi dual control car together and spent just about 5 or 10 minutes chatting in the car about general car safety, handling the steering wheel and using the pedals.

Then they were off and I really could not believe it as I expected to see JJ bunny hop away, but he pulled off smoothly and I was impressed. Later he told me that Paul had made him practise getting his biting point with the pedals and feeling the difference with them before they pulled away.

JJ had been given a Drive Diary before he stated and he will now keep this and use it as a log for when he takes further lessons. There are six levels to the Young Driver Programme and in JJ's 60 minute lesson he passed level one. As part of this first lesson JJ got to learn about the pre-drive safety checks and practise his pulling away, steering, judging his speed and stopping the car.

Once the 60 minutes had passed Paul completed JJ's Drivers Diary and wished him well.

young driver course, bluewater

What did JJ think of his lesson?
JJ is quite a harsh critic of everything and anything so the fact that he thinks he might like to do a 30 minute lesson a couple of times a year until he is 17 speaks volumes. Generally he really enjoyed his lesson and said he feels it will definitely help him when he comes to take his proper lessons at age 17.

He got a bit disgruntled with other drivers on the course as there were quite a few cars on the course and it appeared that the younger the driver, the worse they were at steering etc. I didn't see it as any bad thing though as you need to develop patience and tolerance to be a good driver on the real roads as there are plenty of awful drivers out there!

young driver car, bluewater
That's my JJ in there, driving along

Is Bluewater a good venue for a Young Driver lesson?
Yes I think it is, it is easily accessible from the M25 (although of course the traffic can get bad close by), there is plenty of free parking close by and you can have a shop and get something to eat after your lesson. It took us a few minutes to find where the Young Driver course was as we headed to the Blue overflow car park and parked in Thames Walk on the lower level. As we drove further in to the car park we saw some signs for the Young Driver course and they were very welcome.

You need to use the toilet before arriving as the closest one is in the bus station and this is a few minutes walk away. An adult needs to stay with your child for the whole lesson and as mentioned you can wait in the bus or there is a watch area with some seats and conveniently the stairs to the car park are there, so you can watch from level 1 or 2 and get a fabulous view.

They have created a great training area with give ways, T-junctions, beginners area and dedicated zones for parking and manoeuvres.

Overall
JJ had an amazing time, he will definitely book in for another lesson but feels he only needs a half hour lesson at a time and we will be seeking out a special offer to book, I never like to pay full price unless really necessary!

My 10 year old twin girls have now said they both want to take a lesson too and I'm thinking this might be a wonderful gift for their birthday, to book them and a friend each in for the birthday party package.

Why not pin this post for later?

Young driver lessons are available all over the UK for 10 - 17 year olds. Check out our review when my 14 year old son tried a 60 minute one out at Bluewater, Kent


Disclosure: JJ received this lesson free of charge for the purpose of undertaking this review. We have not been instructed what to write and I remain honest.
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