Driver Education campaigner Peter Sheppard is the latest recipient of the prestigious Neil Nelson award.
The award is presented to the person judged to have made a significant contribution to the motoring industry, and honours the memory of the late Neil Nelson of Palmerston North, former president of the New Zealand Motoring Writers’ Guild.
Sheppard was clearly stunned on receiving the award, which recognises his decades of work in the cause of furthering driver education.
After a 25-year career in the army, Sheppard moved into the driver education arena. He’s been extensively involved in promoting new driver education initiatives both to the general public, and to government.
Until recently Sheppard was chief executive of the AA Driver Education Foundation, during which time it became a leading non-Government organization promoting driver education in New Zealand.
He’s been instrumental in prompting world-first driver education research such as the recent Waikato University study on young drivers’ frontal lobe development, and supporting projects such as the Herriot-Watt (Edinburgh)/Massey University research into Pre Adolescent Driver Behaviour that used NZ students as its study base.
He was influential in the reintroduction of driver education into secondary schools – with participating schools leaping from 33 to around 300 in six years – in the formation of Students against Drunk Driving (SADD), and in developing the Parents as Driver Trainers programme.
Sheppard has conducted crash investigation training for the road transport industry, participated in Government Select Committees on such subjects as heavy vehicle crash causation, and co-authored a wide range of road safety and workplace road safety interventions.
“Peter Sheppard has been recognized not just because of his vast experience and influence in the driver training arena,” said NZ Motoring Writers’ Guild president, Jacqui Madelin, “but because he’s an evangelist in the cause of driver education.”
“New Zealanders tend to see their driving licence as a right, not a privilege – but driving is a skilled activity, and it is only when it is seen as such that we can hope to see better driving on our roads – and fewer crashes caused by inappropriate decisions.”
“It takes people like Peter Sheppard, who are sometimes seen as thorns in the side of Government rather than mechanisms for beneficial change, to get things moving.”
President, NZ Motoring Writers’ Guild
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The Guild’s trophy is named after Neil Nelson, who was a respected and popular member of the Guild who died of natural causes at age 37, while attending an overseas media event with Jaguar.
Former recipients of the Neil Nelson Award:
1998 Chris Amon
1999 John Osborn
2000 Len Southward
2002 Lois Eagle
2004 Aalbert van Ham
2006 Colin Giltrap
2007 Peter Sheppard