Driving Mentors Worthwhile

Novice driver Manjit Singh was doing well until she was put on the spot with a parallel parking request.

The Porirua teen has recently passed her restricted driver's licence, as part of a pilot programme run by youth development organisation Partners Porirua.

The initiative, which partners young people with driving "mentors" to gain their licences, receives assistance from the AA, NZ Transport Agency and Caltex. Local businesses and organisations such as Rotary have provided mentors.

Over the past three months, Manjit has had twice-weekly lessons with mentor Wendy Betteridge. She said Ms Betteridge was very patient with her, but being asked to parallel park "all of a sudden" in Tawa came as a bit of a shock.

"I was really nervous," Manjit said. "Wendy put me on the spot, but it was the best thing to do and I did it OK. She taught me a lot about being safe on the road."

Manjit said earning a restricted licence was crucial for her young daughter's sake. She hoped to become a mentor herself one day.

Partners Porirua director Michelle Robinson said research showed that many young people who had their learner licence were unable to sit their restricted owing to not having access to a car or the cost.

Unlicenced and illegal driving was a big issue among young people, who could have accidents, get infringements and clock up big fines, she said.

"It is a great experience for local youth to actually work alongside a mentor to become legal drivers," Ms Robinson said.

"So many don't get the chance to do that and we are grateful to the mentors for giving up their time to help."

Nine teens, aged 16 to 18, had passed their test, which costs $137, by last week.

Carlos Rewita, who attends Te Kura Maori O Porirua, said city councillor Denys Latham was a "cool" mentor.

"He taught me to communicate a lot and just drive calmly."

Ms Robinson said another 15 teens would take up the programme in the coming months, and it will be rolled out in Northland, South Auckland, East Coast and Christchurch.

Driving Force: Peter Lilico, Paul Ulberg, Manjit Singh, Wendy Betteridge, Carlos Rewiti and Denys Latham were among the students and mentors of the pilot road safety programme in Porirua.

Article and Photo By Kris Dando - Kapi Mana 

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