NEW research has shown that drivers who have undertaken pre-17 driving lessons are 84 per cent less likely to have an accident in the critical first six months after passing their driving test than the national average.
Driving training organisation Young Driver questioned 450 past pupils who turned 17 in the last three years about any accidents they'd had since passing their driving test.
Young Driver is the UK's largest pre-17 driving school, having delivered 1.2 million lessons to pupils aged between 10 and 17 years old.
The research revealed that, compared to a national average of 20 per cent, just 3.3 per cent of Young Driver past pupils had crashed their car in the most dangerous first six month period after passing their test.
Almost nine out of 10 thought starting to learn before 17 had made them a safer driver (87 per cent). The majority of parents of Young Driver pupils, 94 per cent, thought it had also made the young person safer as a pedestrian and cyclist, with a greater understanding of hazard awareness, car control and the operation of controls.
Young Driver lessons take place at private venues across the country, where road systems are created enabling youngsters to try driving on roundabouts, handling junctions and practising their parking. They learn to change gear, steer and brake in dual controlled cars and with fully qualified instructors, as they would on the road at 17.
Sue Waterfield, head of marketing at Young Driver, said: "We know that 88 per cent of those who book our lessons do so to help improve the driver's road safety. Young Driver lessons are a lot of fun, but there is a serious safety message running throughout everything that we do.
"Our scheme was launched 13 years ago on the back of Swedish research which showed that teaching children how to drive before 17 made them safer drivers. Our research with past pupils consistently shows the same - a dramatically reduced accident rate for those who have had early driver training.
"There are several reasons for that. Firstly, we're teaching youngsters over a longer period of time, and without the pressure or urgency to pass their test. They can take their time and really get to grips with the skills needed.
"Those skills then become second nature, so by the time they're 17 they can use their on the road lessons to focus on more nuanced aspects of driving, such as hazard awareness and dealing with other road users.
"Another reason teaching youngsters in a safe environment at an earlier age works well is that they're often more receptive to safety messages at that age. Eight out of 10 parents (82 per cent) agree that their children are more receptive to road safety concepts at an earlier age."