Return to LEGOLAND in Billund, Denmark: Alongside Miniland and LEGOREDO, one of the older attractions in LEGOLAND Billund is the (Toyota) Traffic School. This has been the place for several generations to drive their first “driver’s license”. Basically the driving school is a rectangular area filled with life-like (albeit smaller) roads, traffic signs, crossroads, traffic lights and a traffic circle, on which single seater electric vehicles (with stud decorations) are driven by children. There is even a mock gasoline station and a carwash the drivers can – and do like to – visit.
Note: You can click the images for larger versions.
This is an attraction that requires reservation. You can’t reserve outside the park, you have to go to the attraction inside the park as soon as possible on the day, queue to the reservation desk, reserve a time slot and enter your information on a computer – then return to the attraction at the given time. There is also an extra fee. Before children are allowed on the road, they are given rudimentary driving instructions and basic knowledge of rules of the road. Children also get to pick a brick-built flag of their country, to be placed on the windshield of the car – unfortunately you can’t take the flag with you afterwards. Well, I guess the sheer logistics of that would be daunting.
Unlike other LEGOLAND attractions, which are usually universal, Traffic School has age limits (7-13) and a slightly nationalistic tone to it. For practical purposes, instruction is only available in Danish, Swedish, Norwegian, English and I think in German. (There may be some other languages depending on personnel there, but you get the picture.) This obviously limits the target audience a little and splits even the participating kids into groups according to language. The instructors also encourage the kids to wave their flags and root for the countries participating at various points. So, there is this sort of international, but also a little nationalistic feel to it all.
This is how it has been as long as I remember. Back in the 1980s I drove my “driver’s license” there and I remember searching for my national flag (Finland) from some dusty side pile next to the large amounts of Scandinavian and German flags. I didn’t speak much Swedish or English back then (Danish and Norwegian are quite closely related to Swedish, unlike Finnish), which meant most of the instructions were gibberish to me. This year I saw some people from eastern Europe there, whose national languages were not understandably served. Luckily the staff is very accommodating, arranging smaller groups special instruction in English, that parents can come in and translate.
When the driving starts, children can drive pretty much independently, as long as traffic regulations are followed (enough), like using your hands as turning signals. The staff is on hand to shout out instructions in the languages mentioned and also help out those in need. Safe to say, standing next to this attraction for a few times, I saw plenty of “need”. Collisions are unavoidable (although of course purposeful collisions are forbidden) as are stuck cars and otherwise confused drivers. Luckily the vehicles are built to take the abuse and the speeds are low enough that the only scarring for the drivers is psychological. On the other hand, it is pretty amazing to see how fast kids learn the basics of driving in life-like traffic.
While some kids were clearly excited about the driving schools, others were apprehensive – one kid got a bad start, hitting some cars (which happened to pretty much everyone) and cried the whole drive after (which fortunately doesn’t happen to everyone). Luckily staff were very warmly on hand and even jumped next to children in need and drove with them, if necessary. However, whatever the feelings before and during driving, I didn’t see one child leave the Driving School without a smile on their face. The prize in the end, a genuine-looking (European Union style) driver’s license with your photo, name and national flag on it. And that, along with the thought of presenting it to your friends at home, is sure to wipe away any tears.
Behind the card, on the list of cars you are qualified to drive, there is a brick.
P.S. Did you know that LEGO made a road safety game, Monypoli, back in the 1940s?