Driving mentor scheme to expand

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Wheels are in motion to get more people driving on Central Otago roads, legally.

For some unlicensed drivers, the idea of sitting a driving test is daunting.

Others passed their learner licence many years ago but, for one reason or another, have not progressed any further.

That is where Drive My Life can help.

The initiative, offered through Central Otago Reap, allows people to learn alongside one of 13 volunteer mentor drivers, to gain the skills and confidence to sit the various grades of licence.

Financial support was recently offered through NZ Transport Agency’s Community Road Safety Fund for a new car, which has meant the initiative now has two vehicles to provide training.

Volunteer driver mentors are based throughout Central Otago, including Alexandra, Clyde and Cromwell.

Programme co-ordinator Karen Johnson said support would soon be extended to include Roxburgh, Ranfurly and Wanaka.

Ms Johnson supports people wanting to gain their learner licence, while the other 13 mentors provide training for people who want to sit their restricted or full licence.

More volunteer mentor drivers were welcome, she said.

Drive My Life was piloted in Alexandra in 2019, based on a similar programme offered in Invercargill.

People are referred to the programme by a range of groups and organisations, including police, Ministry of Social Development and social agencies.

None of those who had used the programme were simply just lazy, Ms Johnson said.

There was a range of factors why they had not sat the various tests, including anxiety, financial restraints and limited literacy — all of which made sitting a test difficult, she said.

However, those who have used the programme were now on the right side of the law.

Senior Constable Leighton McRitchie, of Alexandra, said some people had been driving on their learner licence for years.

‘‘It’s not uncommon to have learner drivers in their 30s and 40s driving around like you and I.’’

He said time and motivation were among the reasons people struggled to progress past their learner licence.

However, he said Drive My Life meant people were now being supported through the process.

‘‘If they do it properly, they only have to do it once.’’