AAA has a rich history in driver education. Since writing the first driver education curriculum in 1935, AAA driver education has been an integral component of AAA’s mission as the leading traffic safety advocate.
AAA’s newest driving school, AAA Driver Education, is proud to introduce a team of driving instructors that share the organization’s dedication to and passion for saving lives by producing safe drivers.
Traffic Safety Program Manager and lead instructor Kellie O’Riordan worked in injury prevention in Level 1 pediatric trauma centers for 16 years before coming to AAA. That lit a fire in her to make a difference by educating drivers and advocating for safety on our roads.
“I want to do everything I can to teach somebody’s children how to stay safe,” said O’Riordan. “Motor vehicle crashes are the No. 1 killer of teens, so it’s my duty to do everything I can to protect all road users by using what I’ve seen in that trauma setting to help our students stay safe during their driving career.”
The other AAA Driver Education instructors share the same sentiment.
“I firmly believe that I’m saving lives every single day,” said driver education instructor and coordinator Jennifer Burkhart. She grew up helping her mother at a driving school in New Mexico where she became a driving instructor as soon as she was old enough. “Breaking down scenarios with them in the car as we see other drivers make mistakes really helps set that foundation to where they have the decision-making skills to be able to make the correct decisions and hopefully avoid those collisions and those tickets.”
Two of AAA Driver Education’s instructors have military and law enforcement backgrounds. They know firsthand the consequences of poor driving skills and decisions.
“When I was an Ohio State trooper in 2001, I got in a bad car crash because of someone’s poor decisions they made while driving,” said Shawn Bailey, who recently retired from the Ohio State Highway Patrol. “If we can try and prevent that from happening in the future, that’s what matters to me. I have an unfulfilled sense of duty to put as many good drivers out there as we can.”
“The first 10 years of my career I got to investigate a lot of crashes,” said Todd Scales, who also recently retired from the Ohio State Highway Patrol. “Then, as I became a supervisor, I was the scene commander of a lot of real bad crashes. When I retired, I had a void, because I wanted to be of service to somebody.
Something kept calling me, and my mind kept flashing back to my last two years in the patrol where I saw a lot of kids driving with cell phones on and texting while driving, and I knew it was going to be a major problem, so I thought I better do something to try to help them.”
The instructors say some of the biggest mistakes they see new drivers make are poor visual scanning, speed control, overconfidence, distractions and picking up bad habits from parents and family members.
AAA understands that parents are instrumental in teaching their teens to drive. That’s why AAA Driver Education engages parents through parent orientation sessions, check-ins after every drive, and resources to assist families through the learning-to-drive process and beyond.
The Best Advice for Parents?
“Be patient,” said O’Riordan. “And, really look at this as an adult responsibility. Have those adult conversations about how important it is to be safe behind the wheel.”
“Take a deep breath and understand that we are here to help you,” said Burkhart. “We are going to give you tools to be able to coach your child.”
Bottom line: This passionate team of instructors is truly focused on guiding families through the learning-to-drive process and producing the safest drivers possible.
For more information on AAA Driver Education and to register, visit AAA.com/DriverEducation.