Removing the barriers to driving for students

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Words: Robert Barry
7 Dec 2018

Auckland’s Tamaki College strives to provide every student with a good outcome from their time attending the school, be that a pathway into work, trades training or further study.

The community-minded college had realised that not having a driver’s licence was a real barrier to employment or further training for it’s students, so more than three years ago it took the unique step of training a full time driving instructor, a Glenn Innes resident Vili Tukuafu.

The college also designed a comprehensive driving and road safety course for it’s students. A highlight of the course are two programmes run by Road Safety Education (RSE), a charity dedicated to changing the way young people approach road safety.

RSE’s RYDA programme provides essential strategies for drivers and passengers, while Good2Go gets novice drivers behind the wheel to put low-risk strategies in place.

Part of the course for the students involves hearing from people who have survived car crashes and understanding the moments that led up to the crash. It also teaches students about how crashes affect family and friends and the long term pain and injuries which come with them.

The RYDA programme is supported in more than 80 schools nationally by insurance company AMI, which has also sponsored the Tamaki College driving school.

Thanks to the generosity of its supporters, Tamaki College purchased a vehicle for student driver training, and it also pays for all the fees and costs related to a learners, restricted and full licence.

Tamaki College Gateway Coordinator Kathy Miln says many employers will take students with a restricted drivers licence as a minimum, but there is a emphasis on encouraging the students to get their full licence as soon as they can.

Kathy also compliments Vili on his rapport with the learner drivers: “Being someone local, he has exceptional success with our students.”

Vili had previously worked with many youth through his church and the local rugby team and he was very concerned about the number of younger people in the community driving without a licence or taking risks on the road.

He also knows all too well the impact car crashes have on communities. A few years ago Vili witnessed a fatal head-on car crash in Rotorua. The driver was speeding and lost control of the vehicle around a blind corner.

“It will stick with me for the rest of my life. Drive to survive,” says Vili. “Not drive to die - that’s my first lesson.”

Through his work, Tamaki College students are passing their learner licence tests and are quickly getting their restricted licence, armed with the tools they need to be responsible drivers.

Not only do the students learn the basics of driving from Vili, they gain NCEA credits and also learn strategies to use when finding themselves in a bad situation, such as being inside a car with an intoxicated driver.

“I tell the students to take care to avoid bad situations, and that when they get behind the wheel they’re in charge of their life and the decisions they make,” says Vili.

“Having the confidence and the freedom to drive is important for these young people.”


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