Many of the 244 students who have completed the Community Mentor Driver Programme have gained more than just their restricted driver’s licence.
The programme, funded by Chevron, the New Zealand Transport Agency, the Automobile Association and Hyundai, aims to help disadvantaged youth secure the independent transport often necessary to get jobs or take up further education by removing barriers needed to obtain a restricted drivers licence such as a vehicle, appropriate supervision, fuel and time on the road practicing.
Chevron and its partners say participants not only learn safe driving behaviour. Getting their licence is a big achievement for some and a great boost to their self-confidence. Some, who may have lacked support previously, have become firm friends with their mentors.
The programme was piloted in 2013 and is now being run in Whangarei, South Auckland, Te Kuiti, Gisborne, Porirua and Christchurch. Community partners include the Salvation Army, Counties Manukau Sport, Te Kuiti Community House Trust, Partners Porirua, People Potential Whangarei and the Police.
Participants are selected through schools, community groups and word of mouth. They are then paired with a mentor who provides approximately 30 hours of supervised lessons before they sit their restricted licence driving test. A community organisation is selected to facilitate the programme within the respective area. Through that dedication and focus, the student pass rate through all program locations is currently exceeding the national average.
Chevron not only provides the fuel for the programme, but staff members are also involved as mentors where possible and are endorsed by the AA for attending the graduation ceremonies held by communities to celebrate the achievement of learner drivers achieving their restricted licences.
The fundamental aim of the programme is to create safer drivers on New Zealand roads. Road crashes are the single greatest killer of 15- to 24-year-olds and the leading cause of permanent injury. In 2008 that age group accounted for just under 15 per cent of the population but were involved in 37 per cent of the country’s fatal crashes.
But CMDP also provides tangible help to families in areas that often lack public transport. Many of the participants start the course with fines or demerit points. Getting their licence stops further fines being added and allows the students to legally help out with their family’s transport needs. Some also see the Police in a new light after the course. Many students who have completed the programme have now been able to secure employment where a requirement for a licence has been a major hurdle or look to further education in locations that would not otherwise have been accessible through existing public or family transport.
Chevron says its independent retailers are already active in their communities but that this programme has helped it connect with community organisations it would not have otherwise dealt with.
The vehicles used are branded with the Caltex logo, reinforcing the firm’s association with the programme and the community organisation running it. Programme members are also more familiar with the firm’s Caltex service stations.
But while Caltex is a national brand, Chevron says this programme reaches areas with the greatest needs.
In Te Kuiti, where the trust has just helped its 100th student gain their licence, there is no Caltex outlet. The nearest is at Otorohanga.
The Community Initiative of the Year award category is sponsored by PEPANZ