Drive For Life. Youth Outreach Service’s (YOS) Drive For Life program in Stafford recently hit a major milestone when it began to process in its second batch of learner drivers.
Affiliated to the Salvation Army, YOS has been serving disadvantaged young people in Brisbane for 30 years and Drive For Life is its most recent initiative. The program came into being when it was realised that one of the biggest hurdles facing the young people it serves is obtaining their driver’s licenses.
Program co-ordinator Wayne Norfold explained that even if the young people can obtain their learner’s, they often do not have access to a vehicle or responsible adult to supervise them during the hundred hours of practice driving they need to complete in order to take their driving tests.
He said the YOS program includes assisting the young people to obtain their learner’s licenses, putting them with a professional driving instructor for 10 hours instruction and then providing a vehicle and volunteer mentor for an hour’s driving practice each week.
Three young learner drivers had completed their 10 hours of instruction when Village Buzz visited the YOS offices in Stafford recently and the second batch was due to attend their induction briefing later that day. The first learners were beginning the 70 or so hours of practice they will need before they can go for their driving tests.
Helping young people to become safe competent drivers has many benefits both for them and for society as a whole, said Wayne. It is well-known that young drivers are more at risk of being killed or injured in accidents so programs designed to improve their skills can play a vital role in saving lives and the costs to society associated with traffic accidents.
The benefit to the youngsters themselves is also substantial and can make a major positive contribution to their prospects for finding employment and to their mental and emotional wellbeing. Many coming from disadvantaged backgrounds feel stuck and powerless and gaining their driver’s licenses is a huge positive step for them.
About to set out for a session of driving practice are Drive For Life’s first learner driver Zavier Edwards, left, and his mentor Alex Leskiewicz.
It can give them the sense that they are actually doing something concrete to improve their situations and a sense of achievement as driving become second nature. In addition, many will not have experienced positive interactions with older people and regular contact with their mentors will be hugely beneficial as they become fully fledged members of society.
Getting a driver’s license is not just about the license, said Wayne, but is also a rite of passage exposing the young people to the adult world, placing a challenge before them, helping them to overcome it and celebrating with them at the end.
One component of the program that we at Village Buzz think is pretty innovative is the requirement for all learners to give back to the community by donating at least five hours of their time. This might be in the form of taking senior citizens shopping or performing other chores to benefit the community.
There are many similar programs to Drive For Life running in other states including Victoria, in particular, where the government has seen their value and put its weight fully behind them. There are very few programs running in Queensland so far and the YOS program is a response to a great need in the community.
It is in its very early stages at the moment but the organisers have been concentrating on getting the foundations and processes right before attempting to greatly expand the operation. They currently have one vehicle under lease and are hoping in time, with support from government and community, to boost this number substantially.
At the moment, Wayne says Drive For Life’s most urgent need is for members of the public to come forward to assist with fundraising and as volunteers for the mentoring program. He hopes that the program might one day scale to the point where it can become self-sustaining.