The NZ Automobile Association is expanding the reach of its three month free driving lesson pilot programme to include Rotorua and Taupo.
More than 60 learner drivers have participated in the pilot programme since its launch on 1 July in Hamilton and Tauranga. The free driving lesson programme provides for drivers who have held their learner licence for less than two months and are either AA Members or the sons or daughters of AA Members.
While the pilot programme continues, AA Driving School head Nigel Clark says the plan is to roll it out gradually across New Zealand.
“We’ve been testing our processes and procedures during the early stages of the pilot and everything is going well which has provided us with the opportunity to broaden the programme to Rotorua and Taupo earlier,” Mr Clark says.
The programme is part of the AA’s commitment to improve driving skills and behaviours along with helping to build positive attitudes behind the wheel.
“Since the launch of the pilot we’ve had plenty of positive feedback. Learner drivers, and sometimes their parents, are having a bit of a eureka moment when they realise the depth of knowledge and skills that professional driver training provides.”
Mr Clark says learner drivers must be well prepared in order to pass the tougher driving tests implemented by the NZ Transport Agency at the beginning of 2012.
“Half of those who take the practical driving test fail and usually this means they are not prepared enough.
“The tougher test is about reducing the deaths and injuries on our roads. The higher testing standards mean learner drivers need to take more time to develop their skills and build a solid foundation for safe driving.”
Mr Clark says some parents have chosen to ride along with their child during the free lesson, which is encouraged.
“We’ve had some parents realise the approach they’re taking when teaching their kids could be passing on some bad habits that could firstly lead them to fail their driving test, but more importantly creating a higher risk for themselves and other road users.”
Mr Clark says parents and others who are supervising learner drivers play an important role to ensure that they get plenty of practice behind the wheel.
“But they need to be practicing the right things and doing it the right way. Professional driver training provides the best opportunity to prepare during the period between getting a learner licence and sitting the practical driving test for a restricted licence.”
During the free lesson pilot programme, the AA is offering the sons and daughters of AA Members, or AA Members themselves, a free driving lesson with an AA driving instructor. The programme is designed for novice drivers, which for the purposes of the pilot, are defined as people who have held their learner licence for no more than two months.
The hour long lesson will provide the student with an introduction on key driving skills, how to set up a car for driving, an explanation on instruments, gauges and vehicle controls, moving off, stopping, steering, gears and basic intersection types.
Mr Clark says driver education is a cornerstone of the AA and forms one of its strategic priorities.