The L2P Learner Driver program has added a fifth car to its fleet to help more young people get on the road and gain invaluable experience.
The United Way Ballarat and The Ballarat Foundation-run program assists learner drivers under the age of 21 who don’t have access to a supervising driver or vehicle to gain the 120 hours of experience required to undertake a probationary test.
United Way Ballarat chief executive officer Simon Tengende said the fifth car would allow more young people to get off the waiting list and the timing could not have been better.
“Especially coming into the end of the year and the holiday period, that’s when a lot of young people start thinking about getting their licence to start looking at what they can do with university and employment next year,” Mr Tengende said.
But he said the program always required more mentors, and this would be even more necessary to make good use of the new vehicle.
“Having more mentors dedicated to that car gives us more flexibility, but it also means the car is on the road so more and more young people are being supported on the road,” he said.
Mr Tengende described the statistics from the program over the past 10 years it has been running as “just phenomenal”.
“To date there has been more than 10,860 volunteer hours, 116 volunteer mentors, 43 currently active, and 448 learner drivers have gained valuable driving experience through the program,” he said.
While 125 of those learner drivers had received their probational licences through the L2P program.
But Mr Tengende said the program also provided an avenue for community members to volunteer and offer mentoring and support.
“While the 120 hours is the outcome (of the program), what is invaluable is the amount of time, support and conversations they (the drivers) receive while they’re sitting in the car with the mentor,” Mr Tengende said.
“The life experiences that the mentors have, the work experiences and the social connections they bring to that relationship while they are driving are just invaluable.”
Mr Tengende said this aspect was probably the most underrated area of the program, but also the most vital.
“You have to remember a lot of people who participate in our program are from disadvantaged and marginalised backgrounds, so they might not have an adult in their family or community to have that contact with… and that’s where the mentor comes in.”
The addition of the fifth car was made possible through program partners Bendigo Bank Buninyong, Child and Family Services (CAFS), and The Rotary Club of Ballarat South.