A local programme refuses to be "the ambulance at the bottom of a cliff" as it works to prevent non-licensed drivers from becoming a problem.

While the programme costs an estimated $1000 to get people from no licence to their restricted, that price was "100-fold what we're actually saving" Hastings Police Sergeant Cam Donnison said.

The total cost for national road trauma was $3 billion per year, while serious injuries from car crashes cost thousands.

The most staggering figure was the cost of road fatalities - at $4 million per fatality per crash.


Sergeant Donnison had run Licensing Our Youth, the student-oriented branch of the programme, at William Colenso College for the past two years. He said it was about "prevention first, we don't want to go out there and give tickets, and we want to see the road toll coming down."

With funding from numerous sources including Got Drive Trust, and the Ministry of Social Development, students had received a lot more than a drivers licence, he said.

"It helps with qualifications, aspiration, self-esteem, managing a budget, and building confidence", Sergeant Donnison said.

Getting a licence also put students "rungs above others. Hawke's Bay employers are screaming out for those with licences."

"It's more than a driver's licence, it's about social behaviour", Sergeant Donnison said.

It also helped to remove the stigma and fear which had developed due to high failure rates.

Licensing our Youth was run in collaboration with police, government agencies, and local schools.

Sergeant Donnison said their projection of 400 people earning their restricted licence through the programme was a large number, but could seem "like a drop in the bucket". There were around 25,000 in Eastern District who had held a learners or restricted licence for more than five years.


For two days this week 20 students would be taught in preparation for their learners licence by five police officers, who were running the programme on their own time. While they had a 70 per cent first-time pass rate for restricted licences, and 100 per cent for learners, students would not just be given their licences, they had to work for them.

"[Students] have to respect how much effort we're putting in, and each had to show an acceptable level of behaviour in school" Sergeant Donnison said.

Though people spoke about how hard the restricted test had become it needed to be hard to ensure those with licences deserved them.

Sgt Donnison said getting a licence was "achievable, as long as people put the work in".

"They need to treat it with respect, and as a privilege."

Licensing Our Youth is an ongoing programme, and due to its cost they are always looking for extra funding, whether from individuals or different funding sources coming together.

-Sgt Donnison said anyone who had an interest in funding, or seeing what the programme did, could contact him on 06 873 0500, or email the trust at Gdrive@xtra.co.nz.