Jacoby Poulain: Driver licensing tests a rip off

By Jacoby Poulain

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Youth and struggling parents are being ripped off by our government's driver licensing scheme.

Stricter licensing tests have been designed by the New Zealand Transport Authority and implemented since February last year. The new tests aim to raise the standard of driving required to gain a licence in order to improve the safety of young and novice drivers as part of the government's road safety strategy.

New Zealand has one of the highest road deaths rates of teenagers in the OECD or developed world. It would be easy then to view teens as a danger on our roads and not deserving of much sympathy. Simply imposing far greater requirements on our youth and their families and all other beginner drivers without helping them overcome the burdens to achieve this is unfair.

Time and money, like many things in life, is at the crux of this issue. The government recommends 120 hours of supervised driving instruction per student during the learner phase. In many families, both parents work in order to simply survive. Driving instructors typically charge around $55 to $70 an hour. It is largely unreasonable then to expect two working parents to find the funds to pay an instructor or spend 120 hours in a vehicle supervising their dependent.

One hundred and twenty hours over the minimum six-month learner phase is five hours per week. Multiply the number of eligible teenagers in a home, and take away a parent for single parent households and even access to a vehicle, and the equation becomes almost unfathomable.

Our roads - and whether you can be on them - have been privatised and mixed up with money.

New Zealand Driver Licensing Ltd is the sole private company contracted to conduct licence testing in New Zealand. In essence, they have a monopoly over the industry and appear to be operating an internal quota system. Clear evidence exists that they have directed their licensing branches that the pass rate should be about 40 per cent or, to put this in the logical alternative, that roughly 60 per cent of all learner drivers should fail the test regardless of their ability.

Of 27,568 tests conducted between February when the tougher standards were introduced and September last year only 12,123 passed. Reports highlight that learner drivers paid more than $650,000 to the company to resit the test, which costs $88 a time.

This is unacceptable. Driver licence testing should never be fielded out to a private company whose prime objective is financial. The whole driver licensing situation is convoluted, complex and increasingly wrong. The requirements are becoming increasingly heavy without equal increase in assistance and empowerment to achieve.

It is run by a technical system designed and manipulated by seasoned and savvy politicians and business professionals. The system runs largely outside our secondary school or any other public system, therefore our relatively inexperienced youth and novice drivers are forced to learn how to enter and navigate the intimidating system on their own. Many simply don't.

Next week I reveal how this space is about to get more bizarre and burdensome if government gets its way. I will share insight and local discussion on Hawke's Bay being a national leader of the highest restricted licence failure rates, and what is and what can be done about it to advance and empower our people.


Jacoby Poulain is a Hastings District Council Flaxmere Ward councillor.

- HAWKES BAY TODAY

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