Young drivers learn from pro

By Dana Kinita

Rotorua learner driver Hannah Bailey prefers learning from a driving instructor than her parents.

The 16-year-old has been allowed behind the wheel for two months now and is well on her way to gaining her restricted licence thanks to the help of AA Driving School instructor Mark Revill-Johnson.

"He knows a lot more of the New Zealand road rules than my parents as they're from England and has a second brake in his car in case anything goes wrong," she said.

The Rotorua Lakes High School student will get a free driving lesson as part of a national pilot programme offered by the New Zealand Automobile Association. All drivers in Rotorua and Taupo who have held their learner licence for less than two months and are either AA members or children of AA members can receive the free one-hour lesson.

"It's good to be able to drive with someone other than your parents and learn the basics of driving. An instructor is a lot calmer and you know you are not picking up any bad driving habits."

Ms Bailey is part of the national leadership programme for Students Against Driving Drunk.

She said her confidence had taken a bit of a knock after a minor crash (she was not at fault), but she was keen to get back on the road.

Mr Revill-Johnson has been a driving instructor for 15 years. The former police officer said the free lessons aimed to teach drivers from the beginning good safety and awareness habits.

"Practising with mum and dad does play an important role but lessons are beneficial to cover key driving skills, basic intersection training, explanation of instruments and controls and safety checks," he said.

"If a pilot jumped into an aircraft and took off most of the passengers would be worried and there are more hazards on the road than there is in the air."

Mr Revill-Johnson said the average national restricted pass test rate is at 50 per cent but his students had a 91 per cent success rate.

AA Driving School head Nigel Clark said some parents in other cities chose to ride along with their child during the free lesson, which was encouraged.

"We've had some parents realise the approach they're taking when teaching their kids could be passing on some bad habits that could, firstly, lead them to fail their driving test, but more importantly creating a higher risk for themselves and other road users."

Mr Clark said those supervising learner drivers played an important role to ensure they got plenty of practice driving.

"But they need to be practising the right things and doing it the right way. Professional driver training provides the best opportunity to prepare during the period between getting a learner licence and sitting the practical driving test for a restricted licence."

The lesson would provide the student with an introduction on key driving skills, how to set up a car for driving, an explanation on instruments, gauges and vehicle controls, moving off, stopping, steering, gears and basic intersection types.

- Rotorua Daily Post

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