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Mentor programme removes barriers for young drivers


A new driver mentor programme has launched in Christchurch, aimed at helping young learner drivers to get their restricted licence.

Christchurch is the fourth region to adopt the Community Driver Mentor Programme which has been achieving great results in Waitomo, Porirua and Gisborne.

The programme addresses the disadvantages that learner drivers in the 16 to 24-year age group can face getting their restricted licence, such as access to a suitable vehicle, a mentor and driving practice, says the NZ Transport Agency’s national manager design Cate Quinn.

“Overseas research suggests that learner drivers should practice driving as much as possible before they start to drive alone. They should also practice driving in a wide range of driving conditions and situations.

“Getting this practice can be difficult; some learner drivers need support to get this driver time and experience.”

She says there are a number of drivers in the Christchurch area that have less than ideal access to a licenced vehicle or an appropriate experienced driver to supervise them during driving which is where the Community Driver Mentor Programme comes in.

It is a partnership between the Transport Agency, AA, The Salvation Army Education & Employment and NZ Police, with sponsorship by Chevron New Zealand, which markets the Caltex brand and is sponsoring the national Community Driver Mentor Programme to the tune of $100,000.

The Transport Agency provides the car for the driving lessons; the AA provides each learner driver with three lessons – the first at the start of the 12-week programme to judge the individual’s level of competency, a progression lesson halfway through and a final exit assessment – while Chevron New Zealand through its Caltex brand provides the fuel for the lessons.

Chevron New Zealand is also supporting the programme by encouraging its own staff and franchise holders to become mentors.

The mentors are not driving instructors but rather volunteers who act as coaches, supervising the practice driving sessions. They have received professional driving training from AA driving instructors.

In Christchurch, the community partner that runs the programme is The Salvation Army Education & Employment which is proactive in getting young people up-skilled to find employment. Often a restricted licence is all that stands between a young person and their first job, says The Salvation Army’s education and employment national operations manager Deborah Peters.

“The Community Driver Mentor Programme will go a long way to helping achieve independence and employment.”

Volunteers from the community are the mentors, having committed to spending up to two hours a week to help these young people to get the experience that will enable them to have a better chance of passing their test, she says.

Photo: Constable Sara McLauchlan has volunteered to mentor 24-year-old Jasmine Giles through the new Community Driver Mentor Programme in Christchurch.

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