Leyland Barnett urges everyone to take care on and off the road
Leyland Barnett urges everyone to take care on and off the road

Driving instructor’s words of wisdom

As a driving instructor, Leyland Barnett’s job is to pick up on bad habits people have developed.

He works with people of all ages and from different backgrounds to ensure they have an accurate understanding of road rules and driving skills.

But as his business faces a severe downturn, Mr Barnett is concerned about a different set of bad habits altogether.

“At all costs, don’t go into spirals of despair and regrets,” he wrote in a letter to the Morning Bulletin editor.

“Get back on your feet and tackle your highest debts right down to the lowest as every dollar counts.”

Mr Barnett’s driving school, Evolution in Training, was on an upswing last year, after he made an investment in an automatic car.

We saw a “quite substantial jump” from an average 15 lessons per week to 25 or 30.

But the Department of Transport announced it would cancel all licensing tests for three months in an attempt to mitigate the spread of coronavirus.

Driving school operators were told they could go ahead with bookings but clients had to notify trainers if they felt sick or had been in contact with people returning from overseas.

His bookings immediately dropped to only a handful.

Mr Barnett completed an online course from the government’s infectious disease experts, which has him sanitising the cars’ surfaces – steering wheel, doors, gear shift – with Glen 20 spray and Dettol wipes.

And in a nifty trick to keep from touching his face, he rubs his hands with a waterless purifier with a strong dose of peppermint oil.

“You don’t get anywhere near your face without the fumes wafting in your eyes to remind you,” he said.

Like thousands of other Australians who’ve experienced a downturn in work, Mr Barnett rang the government to check his rights to social security and, unlike many, he got through.

He lodged application forms online and received confirmation from the government they’d been lodged, but was given no clue as to a timeline.

“Back when Rudd gave out stimulus packages during the global recession we were told we didn’t qualify,” he said.

In case he and his wife Diane fall through the welfare cracks again, Mr Barnett’s been up past midnight, updating his resume and applying for night fill work.

Until a month ago, he was a very social person, keeping active with photography and public speaking.

“I went out to Emerald to do a talk on road safety following a tragic accident out there,” he said.

“And my clients are so interesting; they range from young people to the elderly who have to be tested after an injury or illness, under the watchful eye of a medical assessor in the back seat, to make sure they can start driving again.”

But Mr Barnett’s not going to let some social distancing get him down.

“I used to work as a dozer operator out on my own, no foreman or anything, for a month at a time,” he said.

“I’d just listen to the news or current affairs on the radio.”

Mr Barnett’s heart goes out to young people who can’t get work if they can’t get a licence.

“It’s essential in a regional area like ours,” he said.

“I had one student got through just before the licensing closed but another missed out.”

Mr Barnett encouraged learner drivers to keep up their driving practice, even if it’s only once a fortnight, but above all to stay safe.

“Once this is over, there’ll be a rush on driving tests, so the last thing you want to do is fail and face a cooling period before you can sit it again.”

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