PETER Brock learnt to drive when he was in short pants. Young Brock was skidding around the family property at the wheel of a home-built special at a time when most of his schoolmates would probably have been learning to ride their first bicycle.
Todd and Rick Kelly, two of the current V8 Supercars stars, learnt to drive before they were eight on a family property at Mildura.
A pre-licence start means you’re not learning the basics of driving— gear changes, turn signals, mirrors, braking and the dreaded clutch— at the same time as coping with traffic and road rules and nasty weather and darkness.
Knowing how to manipulate a vehicle gives a novice the chance to concentrate fully on roadcraft without worrying about holding the wheel or shifting gears. It also means the fear factor is lower.
This comes to mind this week after a survey that says some Australians want the minimum driving age raised, perhaps— according to South Australians— to 21.
In my world, children would learn to drive at 12. They would spend their early years at the wheel of a cheapie junker car practising somewhere totally safe and carefree, such as a paddock.
This early experience would include basic maintenance, understanding of the costs of motoring— starting with earning money for fuel — and the consequences of a crash.
Just before licence time they would have intensive coaching from experts, from drivers— perhaps even racers— and police, as well as solid book learning on the road rules. There would be a visit to a crash scene, to see the major consequences of a minor mistake.
Then a top-quality safe driving course, the purchase of a low-powered first car and strict supervision of where, when and how any driving is done.
Then more training for the next 20 years or more, with regular safe-driving refreshers and updates in every new car through the garage.
So far it seems to have worked fairly well— for me.