The hoops the Howard League for Penal Reform still has to jump through to continue its driving licence education programme is a mark really of where we are at in terms of trying to cut back the number of people incarcerated in our prisons.

It is no surprise, at all, that the programme has a 90 per cent success rate, in terms of getting young people on the way to being licensed to drive.

Young people want to learn to drive, there is possibly no more general aspiration, and educationally the nation fails by not uniformly responding to that need and ensure that being able to drive, legally, is an achievable goal of those coming to the end of their secondary education.

There is absolutely no question of that importance, and there hasn't been since roughly the same time that spokes started disappearing from the wheel of the average automobile.


Meanwhile, the Howard League, quite logically seeing a need where Governments apparently do not — at least not with the same sense of priority — rely on contestable funding processes, where the tap could be turned off at almost any moment, possibly for reasons which have little or no guarantee of longevity regardless of the success.

While the Labour Party promises getting all high school students up to a defensive driving pass level before heading out into the big wide world, we are yet to see the priority it warrants.

Getting the teen driver up to speed, or more to the point the teen driver who couldn't afford it, relies on the support of philanthropists and other donor/grant sources, including pokie machine proceeds, heaven forbid.

Driver licensing was sort-of added to the curriculum this year when it became NCEA units-accruable, but schools don't conduct the tests, and teaching the students still relies on a large degree of volunteer instruction by those who are in the role of getting the wheels moving.

It's fortunate we have an outfit like the Howard League, as much as anything to recognise that getting young people trained and licensed to drive is a mission driven by needs far broader than just those of safety on our roads.

Even then, it's somewhat bizarre that it takes penal reform advocates to battle for the cause.