Lifeline for new drivers
Relief at funding support
NEW NORFOLK driving mentor Mike Berry welcomes the State Government’s recent commitment to extend funding to learner driver mentor programs around the state.
As a former police officer, Mr Berry knows all too well the importance of learning to drive safely and to the conditions, and was recruited as one of the first mentors for the Derwent Valley mentor program Drive Time.
His experience from advanced driving courses, and dealing with traffic accidents as a police officer, have helped Mr Berry prepare drivers for the risks of the road. He has seen 10 learners through to getting their P-plates.
“I had 31 years in the police force and 11 of those in traffic, so I’ve seen my share of prangs,” Mr Berry said.
“I really believe in mentoring learners to drive to the conditions. I take them out regardless of the weather, whether it’s cold, foggy or icy.”
Mr Berry said he believed the program was particularly important for learner drivers in the Derwent Valley, where motorists often had to travel some distance for work and faced challenging road conditions.
Tori Sonners, 20, said she planned to join the program this year, and said being mentored by an experienced driver like Mr Berry would give her more confidence to get behind the wheel.
With her father a full-time carer, finding someone to sit in the car beside her has been the biggest obstacle preventing her from gaining a licence so far.
“It would definitely help having someone like Mike to teach me all the correct techniques,” Ms Sonners said.
Gaining her licence would have a big impact on her life, opening up opportunities previously unavailable to her.
“I will be able to get where I need to go, it will help me get a job, and it saves dad driving me because he’s a full-time carer,” she said.
Mr Berry said: “I get a lot of satisfaction out of being a mentor. To get someone right through from scratch takes about 15 months by the time they get their hours up and all the rest.
“It’s a bit weird,” he said of the process. “You’re floating on air that they’ve got their licence, but at the same time there’s a sense of loss because you’ve been with the person for so long.”
Drive Time co-ordinator Lexia Brown said the program relied entirely on government funding and she was grateful for the commitment.
“This is a program that changes lives for the better,” Ms Brown said.