This week Oct 27-31 the Pathfinder Charity is holding its latest tuition course for would-be drivers in Gloucestershire. Pathfinder courses are part-funded by the county’s Police and Crime Commissioner as part of his emphasis on safer driving. Students are joined on the course by a parent or guardian, those who go on to take the national driving test have a better safety record than those who don’t. Many, like Charlie Hughes from Gloucester, are still too young to drive but soon will be. This is his account of what happened on the last course with Pathfinder:

“At first, it felt quite strange sitting behind the wheel with my mum in the passenger seat because for the first sixteen years of my life she’s been driving me around. Stalling the engine didn’t help but we just laughed about it and I kept turning the key until, eventually, off we went. 

I’ve been asked if having my mum there was embarrassing or awkward. In fact, it was quite the opposite. Fun doesn’t describe it. Unlike some, we didn’t fall out once and had our own little jokes going to pass the time. It was an incredible experience and one I would really recommend.

Charlie and his Mum

I had driven a little before as a couple of years ago my dad bought me a day at a race track where I was able to do three laps around the circuit in an Aston Martin and a Lamborghini. However, neither of those cars had a clutch so driving mum’s Corsa was different – but just as much fun.

There were about 20 couples on the course and the atmosphere at the start was quite tense as no-one knew anyone else and we were all quite apprehensive at what lay in store. But by the end of the week friendships had formed and we were comparing notes on what we’d learned and how we’d done. One part of the experience is to drive someone else’s car (if you wanted to) and that acted as an incentive to get to know the others.

Some were better, naturally, but there wasn’t a massive gap and everyone automatically got to know who to give a bit more room to. But I think that having a few drivers that weren’t as good actually helped because out on the real road not everyone is a perfect driver. That’s what the course was all about, giving us experience of how to deal with other road users, good and bad.

You might have thought it would have got competitive but it didn’t really, even though one of two of the dads pushed their sons to put their foot down and really go for it, but once again that’s something else you learn to cope with and deal with in a controlled environment.  

So, what did Pathfinder teach me? Apart from the obvious driving skills, I think I found out more about myself. I learned that although there are times when you really push yourself to try and do new things, it’s just as important to practice what you already know and try to polish it”.