Mentor programme helps learner drivers

Thursday, May 21, 2015

A mentoring programme for struggling learner drivers is beginning to show results.

The first batch of novice drivers are starting to pass their restricted licence test after going through the Community Driver Mentor Programme.

It was initially a joint project between the New Zealand Transport Agency and the Automobile Association, but now Counties Manukau Sport has picked up the contract for East and South Auckland.

Programme coordinator Dianne Troup says it provides driver training for those who are not able to access it.

"The number of people just driving by themselves on learners is epidemic," she says.

"Many families can't afford proper testing or only have one vehicle that's used for parents to get to work."

The mentoring is especially valuable for those young drivers who may lack confidence, Troup says.

"It's really exciting to see the impact of the programme already."

So far four participants have passed their test, with the remainder still waiting to sit theirs.

The programme runs in 12 week blocks, with 14 people in each in-take.

Hyundai and Caltex have partnered with the programme, providing a vehicle and free petrol. 

An AA driving instructor also gives each participant three free driving lessons.

Counties Manukau police officers also mentor participants.

Road policing unit Senior Sergeant Mark Chivers says up to eight officers in the unit act as mentors.

"While they're not qualified driving instructors, they pass on good driving practice tips to the learners.

"Many have considerable experience and pass on knowledge."

Chivers says officers find the mentoring work positive and rewarding.

"People's contact with police is sometimes not that positive. But this is really good to see that people's contact can be helpful," he says.

Associate Transport Minister Craig Foss and Botany MP Jami-Lee Ross visited Counties Manukau police last week to discuss the programme.

The pair say they were impressed with progress that's been made.

"Once the learner gets their restricted licence they're more independent and able to access employment and tertiary study opportunities more easily," Ross says.

The programme is funded until the end of the year, when it will be reviewed.