AAA Northeast opened its first Driving School in New Jersey earlier this year with one instructor offering behind-the-wheel training from the Wayne branch.
Kevin De La Cruz said he’s excited to be that instructor and passionate about his work. But it didn’t start out that way.
“When I took my first job at another driving school, I was thinking, ‘this is just a job to get me by. I’ll do something else after this.’ Then, I started to really enjoy it,” he said. “I like helping people. You’d be surprised at how many people really need to get their license, whether they are 16- or 17-year-olds, immigrants from another country or older people whose licenses have lapsed.”
He brings more than 500 hours of instruction experience to AAA. He was on the road with students six days a week at his previous job. It was the same school where he first learned to drive at age 16. The experience taught him something about being an instructor, too.
“I take more time to explain everything to a new driver. I feel not enough time is spent explaining the working functions of the vehicle and the rules,” De La Cruz said. “One thing I go out of my way to do is instill reasonable confidence in a student. A new driver can learn and do amazing things once they are calm and in control.”
His philosophy aligns nicely with the AAA Driving School mission of creating lifelong safe drivers.
Lesson No. 1: Be aware of your surroundings.
Students of all ages and experience levels have trouble with that one, De La Cruz said. Young people don’t necessarily think beyond the next maneuver.
“They’re like ‘I have to take a right, I’ll just turn,’ without checking the peripheral areas or looking at signs,” he said. Older drivers tend to focus on one thing, too. For example, he said, “if they’re going down the street, they’re just looking ahead at the traffic light. They’re not focusing on anyone crossing or things like that.” And all drivers need to avoid distractions.
He’s prepared for any situation, including the challenges of teaching during the COVID-19 pandemic. And he’s confident in the safety practices the club has set for students and instructors.
And, though he may be the club’s only instructor in New Jersey, he knows he’s not alone. He has the support of supervisors and colleagues across the AAA Northeast territory.
For more information or to enroll today visit AAA.com/DriverTraining.