Restricted licence tests plummet

PETRICE TARRANT
Last updated 05:00 13/02/2013

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Dargaville & Districts

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Getting a restricted driver's licence is being put in the "too-hard basket" by some rural dwellers.

The number of people sitting the test more than halved after it was taken away from Dargaville in February last year.

NZ Transport Agency statistics show only 137 Kaipara residents sat their restricted licence test since the move, compared to 291 the previous year.

Drivers could no longer sit their practical test in Dargaville when the changes were introduced.

NZTA regional director for Northland Stephen Town says the practical test was moved to Whangarei, where higher volumes of traffic made driving conditions more demanding.

"The new test puts people into more complex situations and on the basis of that, provided they drive as they do in a test situation, they are likely to be better and safer drivers regardless of the roads they later drive on," he says.

But the change poses barriers for learners such as increased time off work or school as well as finding a supervisor who can do the same. Testing hours are 8am to 4pm.

There were courses available for at-risk Kaipara youth looking to gain their restricted or learner licences before 2012. One, a three-day restricted course, included a lesson with instructor Garry Corbett.

Te Roroa learning assistance took over the Road Safe Northland contract last year but the four restricted licence courses were dropped.

Tutor Stephanie Spraggon says this potentially left 32 learner drivers in the lurch.

The changes have not only made it harder to pass, she says, they also made it harder to sit.

The new test requires 120 hours of supervised practice, but finding time to do this in Whangarei would be a stretch for most learner drivers in Dargaville, she says.

At the time of the change, learners were estimated to do no more than 50 hours of supervised practice.

Te Roroa is hoping to run the courses depending on funding.

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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