Project seeks driving mentors

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Southern REAP Eastern Southland is looking for mentors to help unlicensed drivers gain confidence behind the wheel so they can achieve their full licence.

The mentors will be part of the Drive My Life programme which started in Gore at the end of last year.

Drive My Life is a project developed in Invercargill by Road Safety Southland, Accident Compensation Commission and New Zealand Police, which helps people who do not have the resources to learn to drive achieve a full licence.

Southern REAP is now a partner in this community-led development.

Southern REAP Eastern Southland Drive My Life co-ordinator Jonelle McDowall said the three-stage programme involved helping people pass the theory part of getting a licence; being supervised by a mentor until the driver was ready to pass the restricted stage; then driving with a mentor again until competent to gain a full licence.

A pilot of the programme late last year resulted in five people passing their theory and they now needed to be paired with a mentor.

“I’m on the lookout for mentors.

“I have a waiting list of learner drivers eager to get out on to the road and begin their practical driving lessons, ” Mrs McDowall said.

In the meantime, nine people had joined this year’s programme.

There were many reasons why people might not have a driver’s licence.

“They are the people who perhaps can’t afford to get a driver’s licence, they’re the people who might not have a vehicle at home that enables them to get out practising the practical part of the driver’s licence [and] there’s nobody in their home with a driver’s licence,” she said.

People needed to be referred by an agency to take part in the programme.

Senior Sergeant Cynthia Fairley said there was a definite need for a Drive My Life programme in Southland.

“We have a number of vulnerable people in our communities who have barriers to getting their driver’s licence or moving through the graduated driver licence system.

“All too often, vulnerable people end up driving a vehicle on our roads without any knowledge or skills for various reasons. Some have their children on board.”

Once stopped by police, they were fined and forbidden to drive.

“This can lead to people driving while forbidden or driving while suspended or driving in breach of their licence conditions.

“This also can lead to being summonsed to court and this is usually where their introduction to the criminal justice system can occur.”

It was a very good programme for police to be involved in, she said.

“It promotes helping and supporting those who are less fortunate than others, who often find themselves isolated and stranded from others, lacking independence and self-esteem.”

The success of the pilot programme proved having a driver’s licence made a difference to people’s lives.

“A driver’s licence can change your outlook on life, install self esteem and a sense of achievement and open doors to employment.”