For more than 80 years, AAA has taught young drivers how to operate a vehicle and stay safe behind the wheel. All of the training is based on decades of research done by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.
So what exactly will students experience in the AAA Driver Training Program? For a better idea, we went straight to the source, speaking with six AAA driving instructors teaching throughout the Northeast: Frank Malone, Linda Brookfield, Ray Lamore, Rick Field, Rick Phelan and Susan Moisan. They gave us an inside look of the classroom and car settings, how COVID-19 has altered things and what makes the AAA program unique.
What can people expect in driving school?
Ray Lamore: People can expect a high degree of professionalism. Teaching people to become safe, cautious and law-abiding drivers requires a great amount of responsibility. I take my job very seriously, yet maintain a kind and sensitive approach when instructing the students. I am quite aware that learning how to drive can provoke a great deal of anxiety. Injecting a sense of humor into my instruction can help to relieve that anxiety, as long as the students appreciate my humor!
Frank Malone: With AAA, you get highly qualified instructors with years of experience. In the Worcester area, you also get teachers currently in the high school setting who deal with driving-age students daily at work. It makes it easier and more comfortable for some students to know their instructor from high school classes, before getting them in the car.
Linda Brookfield: People can expect that AAA instructors will A) Guide the students to drive safely and follow the rules of the road. When I’m with students in the car, I often ask them questions about the information they had in the classroom modules. I hope it ties in the information from the classroom, making sense as they drive. I also have many opportunities to discuss situations that arise on the road before or after they react – deciding what is (or was) the best action to take. B) Properly guide them through all the steps needed to get their license. C) Honestly assess their progress and let them know if they are road test ready at the end of their 12 hours in the car with us. D) Communicate with the student and/or parent about any possible adjustments about specific lessons.
Susan Moisan: A great experience! Students will learn the material needed to help them become safe drivers while enjoying themselves in a relaxed classroom setting.
What is unique about AAA driving school?
Brookfield: In my opinion, AAA driving school is special because of its many years of experience with teaching people to drive. Teaching the rules of the road and safe driving, and adhering to RMV protocols make the AAA Driving School program relevant today.
Phelan: There are a few things like the skill level and dedication of the instructors, a great call center that does everything it can to accommodate the students, numerous locations where we teach from and lessons seven days per week. Also, AAA Driving School has a very good reputation at the DMV Road Test sits.
Lamore: I think that our attention to detail sets us apart from other driving schools. We provide a great deal of information to our students, yet remain wary not to overwhelm them.
Moisan: AAA driving school has fabulous instructors who enjoy their job. It takes a special person to teach young students to drive. We want our students to learn and be comfortable with their instructors.
Field: Our driving school has a culture of excellence that flows from our AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety and our National How to Drive Program
Malone: AAA has the entire organization backing a first-class driving school in which the instructors live in the areas we service. The instructors know the demographics and make-up of the students. We also have follow-up services through membership to reinforce the concept of being lifelong safe drivers.
What challenges have you faced with teaching during COVID-19?
Phelan: The lessons are the same, we just have to be sure to sanitize the car before and after lessons. Wearing the mask took a little adjustment, but not a challenge. The biggest challenge has been the closed-course road test the Rhode Island DMV instituted. The first two maneuvers (the “Y” maneuver and parallel parking) are new, take time to teach and have a high rate of failure. We had to adapt our teaching and lesson timetable.
Malone: We had to transition to online driving school and limit the number of students in the car at one time. Students have stepped up and embraced the online classes. AAA was one of the first to offer this, and now has become a leader in the program. Our online instructors have years of classroom experience and some have been teaching high school classes remotely since the start of the pandemic.
Brookfield: The students have been very cooperative about wearing a mask, having their temperature taken and filling out the health questionnaire. They’ve also been very patient while I’ve been sanitizing the car. My biggest challenge has been the masks themselves. I have had to go without my sunglasses on many occasions because of fogging from wearing the mask.
Moisan: Teaching driving lessons through the pandemic did not pose much challenge at all. Prior to driving, we were well trained on safety and given the necessary items needed to protect ourselves and our students.
What questions about driving and driving school to get most often?
Malone: Students and parents often ask, “Why choose AAA over other schools?” I tell them you can go anywhere you want, but wouldn’t it make sense to choose a program that will be there for years to come with follow-up support and membership benefits that keep them safe? Most driving schools end their relationship after the license is obtained. AAA will be there the rest of your life.
Field: What is on the road test and how long is the test?
Lamore: Most families are not aware of the closed course test that the Rhode Island DMV implemented last year due to COVID. Most students have not watched the closed course video that is posted on the Rhode Island DMV website. I encourage the family, not just the student, to watch the video. By watching the video, students and parents will have a clear understanding of what the DMV’s expectations are regarding the driving test.
For more information or to enroll today visit AAA.com/DriverTraining.