A few days ago, my friend and I had our third driving lesson with a local driving school. As we waited in the school building, we were unaware of who to expect as our instructor since we had different instructors each class. A couple minutes later, we noticed a man pacing in front of the building smoking a cigarette. Whispering among ourselves, neither of us even considered the possibility that this man could be our driving instructor. He then proceeded to enter the building with his phone on speaker, “Mental Health Hotline, how may I help you?” At this point, both of us began to worry. What if he was our driving instructor? He then tossed me a pair of keys and said, “Alright you’re up first.” We were stunned, both of us considering rescheduling our class with a different instructor. By then we were being herded out of the building and were headed to the car. We were horrified at the thought of driving with someone who was just smoking and calling a mental health hotline.
During my hour-long drive, my instructor didn’t look up from his phone once. He watched videos on his phone at full volume, hummed songs, and yawned. Driving on high-speed roads such as Parmer with an instructor who wasn’t paying attention was traumatizing. We somehow made it back to the driving school when it was time for me to observe my friend while she drove. Our instructor then called for a five-minute break solely for one purpose, to smoke. After he was done, my friend took the wheel and started driving.
For the first half hour of her drive time, our instructor was on a call. For an inexperienced driver, hearing your instructor chat on the phone while you have no idea where to go can be stressful. During his call, our instructor (if I can even continue to call him that) talked about cleaning out his guns and going hunting in the morning. In our current times, where guns are a highly debated topic, these statements can be frightening to two teenage girls simply wanting to learn how to drive. Multiple times in the middle of driving, our instructor started yelling at cars in front of us and calling them jerks for slowing down or being stuck in traffic. After our combined two hours of driving were up, we came out of the school shaken and having learned nothing.
Learning how to drive is one of the most exciting and important rites of passage one goes through as they grow up. Being able to drive yourself around gains you small freedoms, such as not requiring rides to go hang out with your friends. Thus, when learning how to drive, kids should not have to worry about having unsafe instructors. While some kids choose to learn with their parents, others choose to go to a driving school as it is considered safer for multiple reasons. Most parents believe that learning how to drive at a school is important as they are able to teach you much more. They also believe that since the instructors have a brake on their side of the car, they will be more comfortable taking students on bigger roads. However, what they don’t know is how unsafe some driving instructors can be.
Some driving instructors don’t know basic rules about driving. We are taught in Driver’s Education that yawning in a passenger’s seat distracts the driver and causes them to be sleepy and is therefore forbidden. However, our driving instructor yawned multiple times as well as playing distracting videos on his phone. While some instructors teach their students how to control their road rage, others like mine, teach their students how to show their rage.
The requirements to gain a driving instructor’s license are different depending on the state, however, they usually require one to be at least 21 years old, have a high school diploma, pass a vision, physical, and background check, and present a driving record. Some states require you to take classes specific to driving while others do not. My driving instructor proved that these requirements may seem efficient but are simply not enough. To become a driving instructor, you should have to prove that you are actually capable of teaching students how to drive and that you know basic rules of driving. Mental health screenings are sometimes required depending on the state however they need to be required in all states. While there are benefits of learning how to drive at a school, parents and students must be cautious of having inadequate instructors.
Driving instructors are teaching the future generation the ways of the roads. This experience showed us that these important instructors need to be more carefully vetted when receiving their license. If choosing to learn at a school, parents and students should ensure that their instructor is safe and well aware of driving rules.