Otago Daily Times
Driver training programme plans to move up a gear
A SOUTHERN driver training programme plans to accelerate its activities this year.
South Otago Drive My Life began last February as an offshoot of similar programmes throughout the South aimed at helping vulnerable community members acquire their driver’s licence.
Clutha District Council road safety coordinator Rachel Harrison helped establish the South Otago programme as one of three coordinators, and also volunteers as a mentor driving instructor.
She said it had exceeded all expectations, and organisers now hoped to move it into a higher gear.
‘‘We began with our twoday learner licensing course which, to date, has seen 60 people obtain their learner licence, and then expanded into restricted driver training.
‘‘Eventually, we expect to see a majority of our learners obtain their full licences, and benefit from all the opportunities that opens up for them.’’
Mrs Harrison said entry to the programme was by referral only, and covered a wide range of ages and backgrounds.
‘‘There are all sorts of reasons people might get themselves referred, including difficulty paying for costs of licensing and learning; assistance for migrants who may need to convert their licences or adapt to NZ road rules; and for those who may have found themselves on the wrong side of the law previously, but have a desire to become fully licensed. We treat everyone just the same.’’
The programme relied on donations and volunteers, of whom there were 13 at present.
‘‘We want to expand the programme to meet growing demand, and to do that we need volunteers.’’
She said watching participants acquire licences and new skills was ‘‘very rewarding’’.
‘‘The cheer that goes up when someone reaches the next step is huge. It’s an amazing thing to be a part of.’’
Teacher aide Briar Dawson (19), of Clinton, said, thanks to the programme, she was looking forward to sitting her restricted licence test very soon.
Her mother was unable to teach her to drive due to chronic health issues, and she wanted to be able to drive for both of them, Miss Dawson said.
‘‘It would have been a long road to get my licence without Drive My Life.
‘‘I’m planning to become an early childhood teacher, and learning to drive allows me to realise that dream.’’
She thanked her mentor, Constable Andy Denny, of Clinton, for his tutelage.
Fellow officer, and programme coordinator alongside Mrs Harrison and Dianne Lowry, Constable Rochelle Gordon, said Drive My Life helped achieve police community goals.
‘‘A driver licence can open the door to employment and other opportunities, and the graduated driver licensing programme reduces the number of unlicensed drivers on the roads.
‘‘It all contributes to our goal of achieving safe roads, safe homes and safe communities.’’