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Should teens still learn to drive now freedom no longer needs four wheels?

PUBLISHED: 11:20 21 July 2018 | UPDATED: 11:20 21 July 2018

Teenage boy taking a driving lesson with an instructor. Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Teenage boy taking a driving lesson with an instructor. Picture: Getty Images/iStockphoto

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When we reached our teens, what were the things we most wanted to do?

I’ll skip over the most obvious thing for the sake of taste and decency.

Thing Two was to pass your driving test, get a car and drive, drive, drive.

Never mind 18th birthdays, it was the big one seven that mattered most.

I remember my group of friends in Cromer waiting for the big day with impatience - and jealousy in the case of those whose birthdays fell towards the end of the school year.

In truth, few of us were prepared to wait.

So many of us went - pre-17 - through the ritual of going to an abandoned Second World War airfield with mum or dad and learning to drive 
on the runway.

It saved a few quid by getting us further down the road when we started the real lessons.

My lessons with Ron Dutch were £8.50 per hour. Don’t laugh, youngsters, I was only earning £2.50 an hour back then.

My first lesson was on my 17th birthday and after 14 lessons and one test, I had the holy grail - my driving licence.

I also had a lump sum in my pocket because Dad had rashly promised to give me the difference if I cost less then my uncoordinated older brother.

Passing my test was one of those moments of total exultation. But is it changing these days?

There doesn’t seem to be the same stampede among today’s teens to get driving.

A big part of that is cost.

Cars will always be costly, what with tax, maintenance and replacing air fresheners on the windscreen mirror.

But fuel costs are beyond ridiculous, while car insurance for teenagers - in particular boys - is obscenely priced.

Even the cheapest car with the smallest engine and a black box fitted to monitor travel can be £150 a month to cover if you’re a 17-year-old boy.

It’s disgraceful and disrespectful to so many teenage boys who are being unfairly tarred with the boy racer brush.

So cost is a killer, but isn’t there a more significant factor in the decline in young drivers - the fact that cars are not needed?

If your ambition is to spend every day doing laps of your town in a souped-up Astra with darkened windows, a noisy exhaust and a bass-loaded sound system, you’ll need a car.

But more and more people of all ages are going car-free.

My stepson is 23 and has never driven. I’ve not had a car for three years. And so many younger people are realising that cars are not worth the hassle and the expense when university, travel and work lie ahead.

In 1991, when I passed my test, it was hard to imagine getting anything done without wheels.

But today, communication is light years ahead of 1991, while technology means our body doesn’t always have to be in a room in order to chat or work.

Public transport is very good in some areas (and very bad in other, mainly rural, parts).

And, lest we forget, parents are good for lifts well beyond our teens (or the loan of a car at age 44 - thanks, Mum).

I find having no car paradoxically liberating. After yearning for the freedom of getting in my own car and getting about, I now love the freedom from expense and the liberation of walking, cycling and catching a bus more often.

My stress levels are lower, my physical and mental health are improved and I’m better off (or I would be if I weren’t the chief executive of the Bank of Dad).

It’s fantastic, which is why I’d advise any young person to give driving a miss - until it is absolutely necessary.

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