Stalled drivers face licensing rev up

By Genevieve Helliwell news@bayofplentytimes.co.nz

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Western Bay drivers will have to get up-to-speed behind the wheel after the Government announced plans to set a five-year time limit on learner and restricted licences.

Associate Minister of Transport and Tauranga MP Simon Bridges said too many novice drivers were failing to show they were capable drivers and progress to a full licence.

Parkvale man Ryan Brosnan is one of the many drivers throughout the country who will have to get a new licence before the law is expected to change in two years.

Mr Brosnan, 31, has been on his restricted licence for 13 years.

He described his driving skills as "above average" and said one of the reasons he had not sat his full test was because of the cost.

"I think it's a bit ridiculous, why should I have to fork out so much money when I don't really need to?" A commercial fisherman, he only used his car to get to and from work, which was "five minutes down the road".

Occasionally he breached the restricted licence rules and drove on his own between the hours of 10pm and 5am, "because it's normally about 3am when I finish work and I have to get home ... so, yes, I take the risk [of getting caught]".

He thought the Government's plan was good in that it ensured more full licensed drivers were on the road but he saw the exercise as a good way to generate revenue.

"I think it will be good for younger drivers and encouraging them to get a full licence but, by doing this, they're also targeting people like me who already know how to drive. Eventually, I'll have to get it and it's just another bill I'll have to pay."

Getting a licence hasn't been high on the list of Simone Hamilton, formerly of Katikati. When she was 15 she went for her learner licence but failed the eyesight test. She didn't need a car during her high school years then moved to Dunedin to study.

"I could walk everywhere I wanted to and I couldn't justify the cost of it when I wouldn't really need it," she told the Bay of Plenty Times Weekend.

In 2009, she passed her learner licence but hasn't progressed any further. Now at 26 years of age, her husband automatically drove anytime the couple needed to go anywhere.

"There are some people that do need to move on because they abuse the licence system but, as far as me and a couple of my friends who are also in this position, I don't think we need to get a licence.

"I don't think that by having a full licence it makes you a safer driver and if you don't abuse the licence conditions then I don't see how it's an issue."

On the Bay of Plenty Times Facebook page, more than 25 people said they had had their licence for long periods of time, including Amanda Girvan, who has been on her restricted for 15 years.

On the webpage, Jade Small-Kohu said: "My dad was on his learners from his teens until he got caught in his 50s, and ordered to get his restricted to waive the fine ... and then he was still on his restricted the day he died in 2007."

Mr Bridges said motorists who lingered on their learner or restricted licences were responsible for a large proportion of driving infringements, such as carrying unauthorised passengers, driving alone at night or failing to display "L" signs.

"This level of offending indicates a lack of respect for the conditions of learner and restricted licences," Mr Bridges said. "It is important that these conditions are not seen as optional and we need to reinforce the message that compliance with licence conditions reduces risk."

The Ministry of Transport planned to introduce a five-year time limit on both licences.

The ministry said this allowed enough time for drivers to improve their skills while not forcing drivers to apply for a new licence before they were ready.

After the five-year threshold, drivers will not only have to pay a renewal fee but will also have to do a driving theory test.

At present, all licences must be renewed after 10 years but there is no requirement to show driving competency or skills.

The rule change will come into force within two years.

SLOW TO PROGRESS


70 per cent of learner licences held for more than 2 years

37 per cent of learner licences held for more than 6 years

56 per cent of restricted licences held for more than 3 years

32 per cent of restricted licences held for more than 6 yearsCHANGES: Ryan Brosnan has been on his restricted licence for 13 years.

HOW MUCH DOES IT COST TO GET YOUR LICENCE?Learner licence - $96.10

Restricted licence - $137.00

Full licence - $111.70

Costs are for car and motorcycle licences. Cost includes application and test fee.Source: NZTA

- BAY OF PLENTY TIMES

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