Hmmmm, why would I want to spend money on driver training? My grandpa taught me how to drive, I can teach my kid myself. Why would I spend so much money on a “video game?” Why would we do simulation – they need to “feel” the car and get “real” experience. Yes, I have heard this and much more.
November of this year will mark DrivingMBA’s 8th year in business in Scottsdale and 4th year in Chandler. To be honest, it has been a struggle. My husband and I started this company in response to the senseless deaths we watched happening in our hometown of Scottsdale. 2002-2003 were particularly harsh years and 9 teenagers lost their lives in Scottsdale to driving collisions. We started out with the naïveté of entrepreneurs – “we will build it and they will come.” Well, we quickly learned that that wasn’t happening, so we listened and started down a path of change.
When we first started we saw ourselves as an important complement to traditional driver training and then quickly realized that customers really wanted a one-stop solution for their driver training needs. Our solution early in the process was to partner with existing driving schools and we learned a great deal from several years of offering packages utilizing a combination of our simulation services and the on-road services from another driving school. In 2007, when we opened Chandler, we were literally forced into providing everything under the DrivingMBA umbrella. It was the best thing that happened to us and we saw a real shift in our enrollments.
Through the years we have received countless testimonials from parents and students that have told us how much they appreciated what we did and the difference it made for them. When we would receive an e-mail from a mom about how their daughter or son averted a crash we were absolutely delighted and it would fuel us to keep moving forward.
As I said above, it has been a struggle. We continue to look for ways to educate parents and teenagers about the issues that surround teen drivers. Of course, we are extremely tuned into the local and national news on this subject and there has been a great deal of emphasis placed on the fact that car collisions are the #1 cause of death for teenagers. Those numbers supersede the #2 and #3 reasons, which are suicide and homicide by a large margin. We strongly believe that we are “part” of the solution. For those of you that know us personally, you understand that we have a sometimes-consuming passion for keeping teens safe on the road.
We have tough recommendations such as 100 hours of practice before they get a license, and no passengers for the first year of licensure. We have a tough road test and set a high bar for students in order to get a certificate for their license from DrivingMBA. While our pass rate is very good, we have a number of students that don’t pass the first time. Not because we’re mean or we like failing them, because we don’t – we actually hate it. We do it because we believe, at our core, that it is the absolute right thing to do. We can look ourselves in the mirror and we can sleep at night knowing we did what was in the best interest of that student.
So why would you choose DrivingMBA over a school that does classroom and on-road instruction or a program that does closed course defensive maneuvers? The reason, we believe, is simple. We have researched and continued to refine our instruction methodology and curriculum to meet the needs of individual students. We think of the “seat time” in simulators as a lab where students are not sitting listening to an adult drone on and on about what they should and should not do. Instead they are experiencing the scenario in a simulated environment where they can learn from their mistakes. Making a mistake on a simulator costs nothing. Press replay and ask questions: what could you have done differently? What did you do wrong? That is how a student experiences a potentially dangerous situation and discovers how to handle it in a safe environment. I always compare it to pilot training. Do you think you have ever been on a plane with a captain or co-captain that has not spent a significant amount of time in a simulator? Do you think they experienced an emergency landing for the first time in a real plane? I think not. So why is it so difficult to understand why the same principles apply to driving?
Several years ago we partnered with the Bondurant School of High Performance Driving. Their 5 hour closed course teen program is part of our Elite package. When the Bondurant folks came to DrivingMBA they saw and experienced how simulation could teach students skills that even they could not teach in skid cars or in a closed course. Even on a closed course you cannot put students in situations such as head-on collision or a tire blow out at 65+ mph. The highest speed you can achieve in a skid car is 30 mph. Are closed course programs useful? Of course they are. AND, there is nothing like a simulated environment where you can face the unimaginable and live to learn from it. Driving on a freeway at 65 mph, having a student text the instructor and all of a sudden the vehicle in front of them comes to a screeching halt, is a teachable moment that does not present itself in any other medium.
How does DrivingMBA’s instruction methodology differ from other schools that might use simulators? Our ratio is 2:1 in our beginner program and 1:1 in our defensive driving program. We use the simulators as a tool to teach student skills, not as the teacher. Many other programs, particularly those found in high schools utilize lower level simulators and there is usually a large group of students on simulators. The teacher acts as a moderator of activity, not as a facilitator of learning. That is how our model differs. Our individualized approach provides an opportunity for the instructor to pay close attention to a student, make adjustments to meet the needs of that particular student and use the simulation as a tool to teach a skill or make a point.
Folks, if you have taken the time to read through this article, we would love to engage in dialogue with you. Respond to this blog and please like us on facebook and make comments. We post photos of our students, tips and educational videos – some that are fun and have a message as well. If you love what we do we would greatly appreciate a referral. Forward this to a family member or a friend that has someone that needs to learn to drive.
Thanks for taking the time to read our story. We will continue to do the work we do because we know in our hearts that we are making a difference, one new driver at a time.