Not everyone gets their learner’s permit when they turn 16. We speak to two new drivers who put it off for nearly three decades.
When you drive past a car wearing L-plates you typically expect to see a teenager behind the wheel. But from time to time there will be a mature age learner – someone who has, after years of being a non-driver, decided to head to their local RMS office and take their learner’s test.
Michele Cranston, 52, a food editor and cookbook author, and James Powditch, 49, an artist, are mature age learner drivers who have enlisted the NRMA’s Safer Driving School to supplement supervised driving with friends and family.
People are curious and often ask both James and Michele why now, after more than 30 years, have they decided to become motorists?
“I grew up with my brothers and dad spending the weekend fixing their cars,” Michele says. “I was under the false impression that driving a car went hand in hand with fixing it all weekend.
“I moved to London early in my career and didn’t need a car, then moved to Sydney’s inner west and didn’t need a car, and then I had a child plus a job that involves travel, now I need a car and I need to know how to drive it!
“I decided it was time to stop filling taxi coffers and sit on my own four wheels! I am looking forward to exploring great restaurants in distant suburbs and visiting specialty suppliers and food producers who up until now have been voices at the end of the phone. Plans are also being made for driving trips to far flung places; I’m looking forward to exploring the Hunter Valley and driving the Great Ocean Road.”
James, on the other hand, says his partner Diane gave him a gentle push towards their local RMS at Marrickville two and a half years ago.
“Diane has wanted me to drive for a really long time. I passed the Driver Knowledge Test, I was on my way, no turning back. In 2013, I was given an NRMA driving lesson for Father’s Day. It’s still unused, all intentions to learn stalled until recently,” recalls James.
“How have I lived without a licence until now? Living in the inner city made it easy, my friends had licences as did past girlfriends, it didn’t cross my mind that I should hold my own golden plastic rectangle. Impending births of two children weren’t even enough of an incentive, for the first arrival my mother drove us to the hospital and the second Diane drove herself.
“I can see a few changes in my life once I get my licence – the who’s driving question which hasn’t been part of my social life to date may be raised regularly.
“The upside: my son will be able to play soccer again as his games are often in distant locales across Sydney and most importantly, I will be able to take jobs that I have had to decline previously because I couldn’t get a lift or move my equipment.”
Both James and Michele will take 10 driving lessons with NRMA Safer Driving School, aiming for one each week and an additional 60 to 80 hours of drive-time with supervising family and friends. As both are over 25 years of age, they are exempt from completing the Learner Driver Log Book and the mandatory 120 hours of supervised driving
Did you take up driving at a later stage in life? What were the main challenges you faced as a Learner driver?