Shanti Steventon-Lorenzen is gearing up to new freedom after gaining her probationary licence, with a little help from the Transport Accident Commission and Castlemaine's CHIRP Community Health.
The TAC L2P program has been steered by CHIRP for five years and helps young learner drivers attain their licence.
The program matches drivers with trained volunteer mentors, to enable them to acquire the necessary 120 hours of supervised driving practice.
While metropolitan L2P programs have been suspended since March due to the coronavirus pandemic, CHIRP's regional program has been able to operate whenever restricted have eased, with safety measures in place.
VicRoads resumed licence testing in late September, with Ms Steventon-Lorenzen able to take her driving test in October, despite achieving her 120 hours in May.
"Having a licence will make my last month of high school a lot easier," she said.
"Over the summer, having a licence will mean the freedom to work and catch up with mates without the hassle of organising lifts."
When restrictions eased, VicRoads Bendigo expected to accept new drivers licence appointments in November.
An increase in testing capacity instead allowed VicRoads to offer new appointments from early October.
The number of testing bays at VicRoads' East Bendigo site increased from two to five, more than doubling the number of tests that can be undertaken each week.
Living about half an hour out of Castlemaine, Ms Steventon-Lorenzen was feeling a bit trapped in the bush.
"I craved the independence that comes with easy travel," she said.
"I also knew having a licence would make it easier going into Year 12."
Guided by mentor Pete, the pair would drive for one to two hours most weeks, until achieving the magical 120-hour milestone.
"We started just learning how to control the car around Castlemaine and that progressed to longer drives to Bendigo and Maryborough," Ms Steventon-Lorenzen said.
"We also managed a trip to Melbourne and Pete taught me some helpful skills like changing a tyre."
CHIRP's L2P coordinator Lisa Cavallaro said learner drivers have been good natured about the program's forced disruptions.
"Shanti joined the program in October 2018 when she was first matched with Pete, who has been an L2P volunteer since 2017," Ms Cavallaro said.
CHIRP expects an influx of learner drivers to seek a mentor as VicRoads is testing for learner permits again.
"Fortunately, we have new mentors lining up to join the program to meet this expected demand," Ms Cavallaro said.
Bendigo Highway Patrol Senior Sergeant Ian Brooks stressed the need for caution by and towards inexperienced drivers, ahead of a predicted surge in learner drivers and new licence holders on the roads.
"Everybody at one particular point in their life was an inexperienced driver," Senior Sergeant Brooks said.
"People have waited a few months to get their licence and go on the road.
"Some have even had cars sitting in the garage for a long time, polishing them with their L plates on.
"My word of caution is once you are out there by yourself, it is a lot harder than it looks."
The L2P program is a joint partnership between VicRoads and the TAC, supported by the state government.