Learner drivers face long wait as support program swamped

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Learner drivers without access to a car or driving teacher are being squeezed out of a support program by long waiting lists. Elissa Burjawi reports on hopes to expand the service to cope with the demand.

The L2P learner driving program is pushing to expand to more regions in Victoria to help more young people complete their driving hours, a coordinator says.

Ten years old last month, the program is suffering from extended waiting lists in the aftermath of Covid-19 restrictions and because of the lack of regional services.

L2P co-ordinator Sarah Massey said the driving program was only run by 60 councils in Victoria and young people outside those regions were having to squeeze into a waiting list just to get access to those driving lessons.

“In certain pockets of Victoria there are little gaps, like the city of Glen Eira, where there are no services for young people, which puts pressure on programs such as mine to take young people from those regions,” she said

“The department of transport are trying to fill in a lot of these holes, but it’s kind of a work in progress for them.”

Learner drivers face long wait as support program swamped
The L2P program coordinator Sarah Massey who works on recruiting mentors and setting up driving sessions for the learners. Picture by Elissa Burjawi.

Massey, the L2P program co-ordinator for Bayside, Port Phillip, and Stonnington, said her program had helped more than 278 young people complete their driving hours and pass their driving tests.

The community-based program helps eligible young learner drivers gain the driving experience required to receive a probationary license, through the support of a volunteer mentor.

It is primarily for young Victorians aged 16 to 21 who don’t have access to a proper vehicle or a supervising driver to help them safely complete their driving hours.

L2P project officer Isabel Machuca, whose area covers Manningham council, said young people were having to wait for a long time to get access to these services, because all the mentors were already fully booked.

The waiting list grew, especially during the COVID-19 period where driving lessons were put to a halt.

– Isabel Machuna

The L2P program mentors support the learners in completing their 120 hours of driving and gaining the experience required to drive safely on the roads.

The service is delivered by local councils and not-for-profit agencies, but it is administered by the Department of Transport and funded by the Transport Accident Commission.

According to a 2002 RACV paper, learners who received over 118 hours of supervised driving lessons had 35 per cent less chance of getting in a car accident than those who received only 41 hours.