The simple answer is ‘when the person is ready for it’ for without a desire to learn success is far less likely. But is there a time in your life when you’re more likely to be ready? What’s the optimum time to get behind the wheel?
There are pros and cons to both learning as soon as possible and attending to it later in life as this discussion thread illustrates.
Learning when young
Pros: Biologically speaking, the ultimate time to learn is at around 25 years of age as the brain is fully developed at this stage and the body is young and supple enough to be able to respond with still-sharp reflexes. Confidence and levels of desire to learn may be high, too.
Yet it’s likely that someone around seventeen or eighteen years old will have friends and contemporaries keen to learn, so a degree of common ground is built up not to mention a bit of competitiveness as in ‘who will pass first?’ It’s all healthy motivation at a time of life when you have the capacity to take on lessons around studied.
Driving is considered a common life skill and a rite of passage so should be tackled as soon as possible. Teenagers are used to learning having sat GCSEs and possibly A-levels by the time they’re learning to drive, so digesting practical instructions, implementing them, and learning information for the driving theory test should be almost second nature and similar to the rest of their studies.
It’s also a benefit to be able to point to a full driving licence when applying for jobs. Even if the position itself doesn’t demand it, possession of a full driving licence can enhance employment prospects and shows evidence of achievement.
Cons: The obvious one is that of risk. Younger people have more accidents than older drivers and if a teen passes their test easily and early then a degree of complacency can set in. The heady mixture of sudden independence and being able to drive a car unsupervised is something that some youngsters can’t handle properly.
There’s also the possibility that a teen just passing their test may not use their new qualification for some while. If they’re off to university, say, then they may not drive a car for months on end if they don’t take one with them.
As a result, there’s the chance that, when they do drive later on, their skills are rusty. That said, a careful period of re-acquaintance should see them once more familiarized with driving.
Learning when older
Pros: There’s likely to be more circumspection and care taken as older people know the risks involved and may have more respect for the car, driving and the roads in general. Older drivers definitely have a greater sense of risk, according to a spokesman for the Driving Instructors Association. They’re likely to have seen and taken note of poor driving habits over a period of time, and they’re likely to be learning because they have to – or want to – so motivation levels are high.
Cons: Older people may lack confidence and possess more self-doubt than younger drivers. Mental sharpness can decline as years pass so assimilation of information and instructions takes longer. Academic learning may well be a thing of the past too, so learning the theory might take a little more work.
So what age is best?
The sweet spot would appear to be early to mid-twenties, but careful management of a learner means passing the test at seventeen or eighteen is worthwhile in the interests of getting this life skill under their belt. The truth is that this is a vital life skill and you might find it harder to get on in life if you don’t have it.
If you can afford to wait until your twenties then all the better but if not start early and be aware of your limitations.