Growing up in a small market town, it was a given that once you turned seventeen you learnt to drive. The town has minimal public transport, a handful of buses and one train visiting the station. Therefore, if you wanted to get pretty much anywhere, you had to drive.
I became one of many teenagers who bought their first car at seventeen, and left Sixth Form during free periods for driving lessons. Passing my test, after taking a break for exams, when I was eighteen.
When I moved to Northampton for University after my gap year, I’d been driving and had owned a car for nearly three years, being a legal driver for two. It was weird for me, that other people I met and became friends with hadn’t learnt to drive.
After being here three years and having moved my car down with me (being fed up of trains) it shocks me that people can’t drive. People often give the reasoning that I don’t need to know how to drive, I can get a bus or a train anywhere, and okay yes, whilst transport links are great in Northampton, what about after you graduate?
There is no guarantee that you will find, or will want a job, in Northampton (for example). What if you can only find a job in a small town with minimal transport links? Not knowing how to drive vastly limits where you can search for a job, and your ability to get to that job.
I’ll use a personal example. Back home, a local transport company has slashed the amount of buses it runs, getting rid of some services altogether. Now, this didn’t affect me. I can just jump in a car and drive fifteen minutes to get to work. But people doing exactly the same journey as me, were having to get two or three buses, paying more fares and taking up to an hour, or where having to give up their job altogether because they couldn’t get there at all.
I personally think that everyone should learn to drive when they turn seventeen. I get that it’s expensive and you might have the best transport links in the world, but it is an important life skill. Imagine not learning how to read a clock because someone else can do it for you – seems weird doesn’t it?
University is stressful and busy but driving lessons are only an hour or two a week. It would be, and is so much easier learning now before you graduate. It will open up doors for you. To pardon the cliché, when you can drive the world really is your oyster.
Think about it, no more waiting at a bus stop in the rain for a bus that isn’t going to come. No more being packed into a train carriage with a hundred other commuters on a Friday evening, with a guide dog shoving its head between your legs (…no one else had this experience? Trust me: not fun). Driving is so much better than having to rely on public transport. Yes, I understand that public transport is better for the environment and I do still use it – I’ve just paid £60 to get the train to Leeds to visit my sister. But trains can’t always get you to where you need to go, there are delays and cancellations. You can’t rely on public transport forever.
The thing with driving is, once you learn you don’t forget. So learn now, and by all means don’t drive again for five years but at least in five years time when your boss decides to send you to another office 131 miles away (distance from Northampton to Leeds, not just a random number haha) you can just shoot up the M1 and pay £40 in petrol and be in the comfort of your own car, rather than being squashed on a train, where you’ve spent £60 to stand up for four hours (I’m not bitter).