Balclutha Constable Rochelle Gordon is driving home road safety messaging by partnering with Clutha District Council Road Safety to deliver a programme for local people who don’t have the resources to learn to drive or achieve a driver’s licence.
Drive My Life is a project that was initially developed in Invercargill, but has been adapted to suit the South Otago region by Rochelle and the local council, and they’ve had a lot of buy-in from community partners.
“We started by borrowing tablets from a local school, and now through various grants we have our own tablets for practice tests,” says Rochelle. “We also got $9000 in funding from the Clutha Foundation towards getting our own car for the programme.”
Drive My Life is aimed at those who may not have the means to get a licence, people who have been dealt with by police for breaches of licence conditions, elderly people who need refresher training for licence re-sits, and vulnerable people who may have barriers to obtaining a licence. The programme also assists migrants who are new to the community in obtaining a licence.
All this support is delivered with the aim of making the roads safer for all users. Drive My Life also helps by aiming to reduce the number people entering the justice system for driver licence breaches, stopping recidivist offending and helping people move into employment.
“We get referrals from WINZ, Corrections, Youth Aid, and other community partners,” says Rochelle, “and a lot of people with learning difficulties who need that extra support in understanding the road code.”
The programme caters for those going for their learner and restricted licences, with a view to extend support for full licence applications in the future.
At a recent learner licence session, Clutha Council Road Safety Coordinator Rachel Harrison and Rochelle took participants through practice tests and learning games with help from local volunteer mentors.
One of the attendees at these sessions found this support was exactly what he needed. Forestry worker Jordan, 28, was referred through Tokomairiro Waiora Inc. and is excited to be part of Drive My Life.
“The people here are great, and this is making me feel like I’m really accomplishing something,” says Jordan. “I’ve never done anything like this, I sort of needed this push, and now I’m confident.”
The structure of the programme seems to be a big help too.
“We cram the learners sessions into two full days over a weekend, put on lunch for everybody, and pay for participants to sit their tests the very next day. We find this just makes it as easy as possible for participants to succeed,” says Rochelle.
And the results of this strategy speak for themselves. In 2020, Drive My Life put 42 people through for their learners with a 100% pass rate.
“The best part is seeing people after they pass. They’re just buzzing,” says Rochelle. “Sometimes it’s their first real feeling of achievement, which is so good to be a part of.”
Rochelle is always looking to improve the programme by constantly seeking feedback from participants. The most recent learners course feedback comments proved that Drive My Life is definitely on the right track.
“The best part was the chance to study one-on-one with a mentor.”
“Being able to interact with others, and laugh was the best part for me – and can’t forget the fun quizzes!”
“I thought the course was awesome.”