As a solo mum of three, getting around on a learners' licence has been a real challenge for Crystal Beach.

She's spent years prioritising other things but now a programme supporting Ōpōtiki residents to get fully licenced is helping her become more mobile.

"It comes down to bad habits," Beach said. "That is all I've ever been told, and I have never had anyone to teach me. I'm self-taught really."

Crystal received lessons with volunteer instructors each week, learning techniques to help her pass the test for a full licence, such as holding the steering wheel at nine o'clock and three o'clock so both arms could help control the car.


"It's some things that I didn't even know about, or that might have changed, like using the push and pull technique - I use that all the time now."

April Whitelaw-Fidler was afraid to get behind the wheel of a car. Now she's on the path to getting her drivers' licence.

"You do need it for work. Just to get further along in life, you do need a licence to grasp all those opportunities."

Almost 70 young people from around the district have benefited from the programme, gaining restricted and full licences.

"The mentoring programme steps in and says they are there to help you," said Whitelaw-Fidler. "Whether it's getting you to Whakatane in a registered, warranted car that you can sit your restricted with, or giving you the practice you need so you can go and sit it on your own."

With two state highways running through Ōpōtiki, statistics for road accidents were high.

Deputy Mayor Lyn Riesterer said police approached her two years ago about the number of young people in the region being pulled over on learner licences.

"Within the Bay of Plenty area, a lot of young adults - and not so young adults - have remained on their learners' licence because of the prohibitive cost," Riesterer said.

"The schools need to be involved, the community needs to be involved. That is what I love about this programme, other people are teaching our youth and giving them the necessary experience in their driving."

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