Young Driver gears up for a visit from the Special Friends Club

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22 disabled local teens get behind the wheel of a car on a special driving course

A group of disabled youngsters made some of their dreams come true when they got behind the wheel of a car for the first time at Bristol Cribbs Causeway.

Twenty two youngsters, along with parents, from the Special Friends Club visited Young Driver on 12th August, to give them the chance to try driving in a safe and controlled environment.

Because Young Driver lessons take place on private property it can teach anyone aged 11 and over, including those with disabilities which may mean they will never be able to legally drive on the roads.

The Special Friends Club is a local charity run by volunteers and it has 150 families as members from around Bristol and South Gloucestershire, all of whom have a child with a disability.

The aim of the club is to organise fun events for families, who may struggle to access mainstream facilities. The youngsters have varying disabilities, including Downs’ Syndrome, epilepsy, autism, cystic fibrosis and learning difficulties.

A sub group set up for teenager members of the club requested driving as something they would like to do. In dual controlled cars accompanied by fully qualified instructors, they manoeuvred through the mock road system, navigating obstacles, trying their hand at parking and practising changing gears.

Sophie Axford, from Special Friends Club, said: “It’s likely that most of the youngsters won’t ever get the chance to drive on the roads, but of course like any teenager, they want to try new experiences and have the opportunity to do things that their peers would. Driving was something they were really excited to try and we were delighted when we realised they could get behind the wheel with Young Driver.

“The instructors were fantastic, and it was great to see the children gain a sense of independence, yet in a fully supported environment. It really helps with their self confidence. I’m sure they’ll be coming back for further lessons!”

Kim Stanton from Young Driver added: “Because we run lessons on private property it means we are able to provide lessons to younger pupils, or those who may not be able to drive on the road. We work with people with a variety of disabilities including those who are blind or deaf, have prosthetic limbs, are in wheelchairs, or have learning disabilities or neurological disorders. At four venues we have automatic/adapted vehicles with hand controls. The feedback from the lessons is always that they really help build self confidence, and of course also that the drivers have great fun! We were delighted the Special Friends Club had such a great experience. They were all very talented young drivers!”

Young Driver was set up in 2009, and has now given more than 250,000 lessons at 35 venues across Britain. As well as offering the chance to try driving to those who may not otherwise have the opportunity to experience it, the scheme also aims to reduce the high number of accidents involving newly qualified drivers by teaching youngsters from an earlier age and over a longer period of time. On average, one in five currently crash within six months of passing their test, as opposed to one in 10 Young Driver past pupils.

For more information visit www.youngdriver.eu or call 0844 371 9010.  For more information about Special Friends Club visit www.specialfriendsclub.org.uk

Young Driver was established in 2009 with the aim of helping to teach youngsters to drive over a longer period, therefore encouraging a safer generation of new drivers at 17. For more information log on to www.youngdriver.eu or call 0844 371 9010

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