Right track opens young drivers’ eyes
Logan Kemp has been dragged through police cells, addressed by a judge and spoken to by police.
He has witnessed the fire brigade wrench a victim from a crash, seen funeral directors embalming a plastic corpse and listened to paraplegics who survived accidents.
But the 17-year-old Mt Albert Grammar School student is not a young offender in need of some tough realities.
Instead, the peer leader and school mentor was one of 12 youth who graduated last Tuesday from a police initiative to prevent teens from offending, and to make them understand the consequences of their actions.
The Right Track Programme, which started in south Auckland, utilises all emergency services in a series of workshops over three weeks for a holistic approach to youth issues such as boy racing and drink-driving.
The 98 percent success rate prompted trials to start in Tamaki College, Auckland Grammar School and Mt Albert Grammar.
Eastern area youth services coordinator sergeant Beth Houliston says the programme is a mix of young offenders and student mentors aged 15 to 16 who are driving or have friends who drive.
“It’s targeted at young people so they can have a sphere of influence and a ripple effect of information disseminated down,” Miss Houliston says.
On day one the teens were taken to the Auckland District Court where they walked the cells and back tunnels to the court room, just as an offender would.
Session two gave an insight into the police serious crash unit, with presentations from the Brain Injury Association and funeral directors.
Mothers of crash victims spoke about the aftermath of accidents and how it affected their lives.
“It’s extremely emotional and you can hear a pin drop.
“There’s a point of realisation, some dawn that they are not actually invincible, six foot tall and bullet proof,” Miss Houliston says.
“And the consequences are serious. They realise the ripple effect – that one person’s poor decision can affect the whole family, emergency services and their peers.”
The third session, based at the Mt Wellington fire station, showed how firefighters cut a person out of a wrecked car.
Teens were put out of their comfort zone in the fourth session at Kokako Lodge in Hunua during team building exercises in the outdoors.
“We’re making them understand what it’s like to take a risk,” she says.
“They would be quite happy to get in a car and let their mate drive 160kmh, but would they jump off a waterfall?”
Session five explained what happens when innocent people are involved in a collision with a drunk driver at high speed.
In the final session, held at the Middlemore Trauma Unit and the Otara Spinal Unit, youth are spoken to by those who have been involved in accidents, suffered injuries and been through rehabilitation.
Logan says the programme was an eyeopener.
“You watch the news and get a fair idea of what happens in a crash, but nothing like this. You need a hands-on experience to really understand the consequences.
“Otherwise you think it’s just another road toll statistic.”
It’s graphic, he says, but sometimes that’s the only way to learn.
Logan noticed at the end of the course some of the young offenders were showing more respect towards people.
Parents are encouraged to attend the classes, but all participation is voluntary.
Logan’s father Ian says it was invaluable information for parents as well.
“The ones this age tend to be a bit gung-ho and rip, roar and bust. But it made them see things differently,” he says.
“They weren’t pulling many punches.
“The next stop would be having a real body there.”
He says the hardhitting presentations drove the point home.
“It emphasised choices.
“Making the choice to speed, making the choice to drink, to be an idiot, and that the outcome can be out of your hands.
“I thoroughly recommend it and only hope they crank it up and do more of it.”
On track: Logan Kemp says the Right Track Programme is a fantastic initiative with some hardhitting messages.