Shepparton resident Bill Winters is celebrating 10 years in the passenger seat.
He has seen his fair share of near misses, but the L2P Driver Mentor Program co-ordinator has managed to help hundreds of disadvantaged local youth get their licence.
With the support of the Transport Accident Commission, Victorian Government and Berry Street, Mr Winters has been with the driving program since day one back in 2010.
“I saw an advertisement in the News and it pulled at my heart and mind,” Mr Winters said.
“I thought it would be great to give back to my local community, especially in a way that I could help young people learn to drive safely.”
The driving program was developed after studies revealed the extreme disadvantage young people had long into the future when they were unable to obtain a driver's licence.
As well as helping people clock up their 120 hours of learner driving, Mr Winters’ role is to train volunteer mentors, around whom the program ultimately revolves.
The more volunteer mentors who want to teach young people to drive, the more spots available in the program for local youth.
Mr Winters said the program had grown over the past decade from 25 seats to now 65.
“So currently we are teaching 65 local youths how to drive,” Mr Winters said.
“I facilitate the training of our mentors, so they are able to support drivers in a very calm manner with concise instructions.
“They (mentors and learners) are a real hard-working bunch.”
Mr Winters said he was always looking for volunteers to join the satisfying community project.
“There’s a number of reasons why youth need help learning to drive,” Mr Winters said.
“From parents or guardians not having the time, confidence, funds, to not having a car or even the knowledge.
“You really do develop a bond with the youth, and really want them to be safe on our roads and progress to get their licence.
“You really do get more out of it than what you put in.”
Mr Winters said he wanted his time with the program "to go out with a bang" and would not be handing over his keys to someone else just yet.
“From the bushfires to the COVID-19 crisis, our services have been impacted slightly,” he said.
“Life is about about what you contribute to it and that’s what this program is all about.
“It's good fun and you know you're making a difference in young people's lives."
For more information about how you can become a driving mentor, call (03) 5822 8100.
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