Learner drivers in the Eurobodalla Shire needing a hand with their 120 practice hours have received a boost after a major funding announcement for the council’s mentor driving program on Friday.
Bega MP Andrew Constance and Attorney General Mark Speakman on June 15 said the state government had made a $125,000 funding commitment to Eurobodalla Shire Council’s Y Drive program, which pairs learner drivers with volunteer mentors to get their provisional licence.
The program, launched in July 2017, aims to assist Indigenous, homeless or disadvantaged youth in the shire in accessing a vehicle and volunteer instructor to receive the driving experience needed before taking their practical test.
Mr Constance said the funding would secure the program’s future for another 18 months and support a further 30 young drivers through the course.
“Gaining a driver’s licence is life-changing for people doing it tough, increasing their independence and improving access to education and jobs,” Mr Constance said.
Y Drive program coordinator, Angie McMillan, said 12 drivers had been through the program and three had successfully attained their provisional licence.
“They come out really safe drivers and they learn properly and complete the full 120 hours,” Ms McMillan said.
“The kids are coming out much better drivers and are getting their licence first go with the RMS.
“The RMS thinks it’s a great project and if we tell them the kids are from Y Drive, they know they’ve done all the things they’re supposed to, which your average young kid doesn’t always get to do.”
Ms McMillan said the program had particular benefits for young drivers from low socio-economic backgrounds.
“For disadvantaged young people, getting your licence is hard,” she said.
“They’ve got no car at home, no-one with a licence to take them driving, they can’t afford lessons, they can’t afford the driver course and they may not have someone who can dedicate to taking them out.
“This is why the mentors from the community are such a help. They form a really good bond with the learner and they get so much more out of it other than the driving lessons.”
Eurobodalla Shire Mayor Liz Innes said she was proud to be associated with Y Drive.
“Having a driver license opens up opportunities for work and study and gives young people independence,” Cr Innes said.
“The council’s youth team has done an amazing job developing Y Drive and now we can shift it up a gear with this fantastic funding from the NSW Government.”
Mr Speakman said he was pleased to be supporting a community-driven initiative to make NSW roads safer and reduce the cycle of disadvantage.
“If a young person doesn’t have a licence and can’t access public transport, they might take risks or break the law to get to their destination,” Mr Speakman said.
“We don’t want to see inexperienced youth driving unsupervised and ending up with a criminal record or becoming a road toll statistic.”
Recent research by the NSW Police Force showed 22 per cent of licence offences within the Eurobodalla Shire were committed by people aged 16 to 25, with young people who never held a licence accounting for around 14 per cent of the offences.
The NSW Government is providing Eurobodalla Shire Council with funding for Y Drive under the Community Safety Fund program, which will deliver $10 million in community grants over four years.