A young driver from Christchurch has become the 300th person to gain their restricted licence through the Community Driver Mentor Programme (CDMP).
The CDMP helps young learner drivers’ overcome obstacles that prevent them from getting their restricted license, such as access to a suitable vehicle or an appropriate experienced driver to help them practise. It is a joint initiative between the NZ Transport Agency, New Zealand AA and six communities, and is supported by Chevron New Zealand (Caltex) and Hyundai.
“Reaching this fantastic milestone is an example of what can be achieved when communities come together. The programme produces young drivers who have gained practise across a range of conditions and situations, giving them greater skills and confidence to drive more safely on our roads,” says the Transport Agency’s Acting Group Manager, Leigh Mitchell.
Isaac Houghton-Pawa, a pupil at Aranui High School, is the 300th driver to graduate from the programme. He says, “I’m so happy and relieved to have passed. The programme has made an unbelievable difference. It’s shown me that I didn’t actually know how to drive and now I have the knowledge and skills to make good, wise choices. I’m a much safer driver now."
Volunteer mentor drivers partner with the young learners, spending 30 hours with them to foster positive driving habits. Leo Swart, mentor driver for the Christchurch programme, has been involved since day one and says, “I am originally from South Africa and New Zealand has been so kind to me and my wife. I feel it’s important to give back when the opportunity arises and being a mentor is just a real joy.”
Christchurch Coordinator Keran Tsering from the Salvation Army sees the positive effect of the programme on so many young people. Her experience is that community support is central to achieving such positive outcomes, with mentors providing a wealth of experience and wisdom.
In 2014, the Ministry of Transport produced a Young Driver report that showed drivers aged 15-24 were overrepresented in all types of vehicle crashes. The CDMP supports reduced crash rates by removing barriers to getting licenses and embedding safer driving skills.
“The Transport Agency has welcomed industry investment in the initiative, with Caltex and Hyundai both getting involved,” Ms Mitchell says. Caltex provides $100,000 worth of fuel for the programme. “Knowing that so many drivers have now successfully completed the programme confirms our view that community based initiatives like the CDMP work,” says Chevron NZ General Manager Dean Gilbert. “We’re thrilled with the results and the benefits to the individuals involved, including fostering safer driving behaviours.”
Hyundai also supports the programme, with three of their dealers, including Gary Cockram Hyundai in Christchurch, providing an i20 car for learners to use.
“We’re thrilled to see the difference this programme makes. Helping young drivers understand how to avoid accidents and other risky scenarios makes sense and improves road safety in New Zealand,” says Dougal Cockram, Dealer Principal, Gary Cockram Hyundai.
Communities in Porirua, Te Kuiti, Gisborne, South Auckland and Whangarei also run the programme, which has now been in place since early 2013.