9 Mar 2015

Few Maori taking defensive driving courses

9:14 pm on 9 March 2015

A study shows not many Maori are taking part in defensive driving courses.

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Photo: NZTA

Otago University researcher Dorothy Begg interviewed 4,000 New Zealanders nationwide to investigate who takes driver education courses and why.

The results of her study showed the majority of those attending defensive driving courses were young and non-maori.

Dr Begg said it was concerning that many of the 850 Maori learner drivers they interviewed did not take the course.

"One of the things that did cause me some concern was that they were less likely to progress on to their restricted and full license than the non-Maori group which was the majority of the group - but proportionately fewer Maori continued through."

Ten-thousand New Zealanders on their learner or restricted licenses go through a defensive driving course every year, and they can take six months off their restricted license time by attending the training courses.

Dr Begg said an interesting area of her research was Maori who do not take the course.

"They just have to spend more time on their actual restricted license before they can get a full license and my research has shown that that is probably better for them in a safety term. Safety benefits show it's better to spend more time actually on a license getting more practice under the restricted conditions".

The Automobile Association said the defensive driving courses gave beginner drivers many valuable skills that they would not otherwise learn.

AA spokesperson Karen Dickson said often parents teach their children to drive, and although they mean well, it was not always the best solution.

"Mums and dads need to do a lot of practice with their young people in a car, but what they don't know often is the latest road rules and all of the information that they need to be transferring to their little learner drivers. So we have always recommended, as has the government, that our young learners need to have professional intervention or professional training in their learning to drive journey."

A recent New Zealand Transport Authority advertisement stressed the importance of parents taking more responsibility when teaching their children to drive.

However, Ms Dickson said everyone should be taking a course as well as plenty of time behind the wheel as just practicing driving was not enough.

"They're not understanding the basics about scanning and searching the environment as well as they need to, making good decisions based on the fact that they've seen things they need to respond to."

Dr Begg said they found what deterred the young Maori they interviewed was the price and the availablity of courses in some remote areas of New Zealand.

The AA standard defensive driving course was eight hours of theory in a classroom and an hour on the road with an instructor.

Ms Dickson said the course can cost up to $200 per person which restricted attendees to those who can front up with the cash.

But as the road toll climbs, the AA was hoping the cost isn't not driving away those who could benefit from the courses.