Professional help for drivers

By Sonya Bateson

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Free driving lessons will be given out to Tauranga drivers in a bid to curb the road toll.

The free lessons will be offered once a year to AA members, who can use them themselves or pass them on to a person of choice.

The programme is being piloted in Tauranga and Hamilton and is likely to be rolled out nationwide later in the year.

AA driving instructor David Bishara said the idea for free driving lessons was a response to people dying on New Zealand's roads, many of whom were novice drivers.

"Younger drivers don't have the money to spend on driving lessons. There's a bit of a misapprehension there, they will spend the money to take the test again and again when they keep failing, when they could pay for some driving lessons, take the test once and get there," he told the Bay of Plenty Times.

Mr Bishara said parents could give their free driving lessons away to their children.

The lessons started with the basics such as how to hold the steering wheel correctly, which Mr Bishara said drivers took for granted. They then moved up in complexity, taking in things such as roundabouts, high-speed areas and heavy traffic.

"We're expecting a lot of teenagers ... within that there will be people who know how to drive and complete novices. They're given an assessment we've got that is similar to the driving test. We know what the test involves and how to teach people the skills."

Mr Bishara said professional driving lessons were necessary for novice drivers as many people inherited bad habits from their parents, or watching movies or playing computer games.

"Their parents got their licences 20 or 30 years ago. In that time, the licence has changed, the cars have changed, the technology has changed. We don't hold our steering wheels at 10 and two any more because of the airbags. We now hold them at nine and three."

Tauranga police Sergeant Nigel Ramsden supported the initiative.

"If people can get professional tuition it's a good thing. From a police perspective, we want people that get as much professional tuition as possible before they take their test. Just being able to pass your test doesn't make you a good driver. Professional input will help improve skills."

Mr Ramsden said any person learning to drive should seek professional help at some point.

- BAY OF PLENTY TIMES

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