Kettering teens have an array of options for driving schools

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Photo: Jeff Allen

D&D students wait patiently for their instructor to start his lesson. D&D Driving School has been serving the Kettering community for more than 60 years.

Mobility is a necessity in today’s fast-paced world. You have to get to school, work, the grocery store, the day care or Grandma’s house. People always have to get somewhere. Most teens want to drive, but driving is a responsibility as much as it is a freedom.

Driving school has been an option for decades. But if you’re younger than 18 years old, you must complete an Ohio driver’s education course before you can obtain an Ohio driver’s license.

You can enroll in a driver’s ed course when you are 15 years and 5 months old, and you’ll be able to apply for your Ohio learner’s permit — your “temps” — once you turn 15 years and 6 months old.

In the Kettering area, teens can select from a number of driving schools, including D&D Driving School, Professional Driving Systems (PDS) and AAAA Driving School. Regardless of which school you choose, you’ll complete 24 hours of classroom education and 8 hours of behind-the-wheel training.

D&D Driving School is located at 3125 Wilmington Pike. The price is $390 for the full class. The school has been a mainstay in Kettering for 62 years, having formed in 1952.

Sharon Fife, the second-generation owner of D&D, says that what separates them from others is the driving school’s reliability.

“We’re a family owned business, and I’m very involved in the state of Ohio to improve driver’s education,” Fife said.

According to Fife, D&D teaches its classes around visual skills.

“We teach drivers to pay much attention to their surroundings and look all ways,” Fife said. “Visual skills is really what we push.”

She says that D&D Driving School is diverse with the way the instructors teach.

“We focus on a lot of different behind-the-wheel skills and not just passing the test. We let them experience the freeway and take them downtown,” Fife said. “We like to show them many different things.”

Another nearby option for teens in Kettering is PDS or Professional Driving Systems at 5335 Far Hills Ave. PDS was formed in 2006 by police officers, and owner Jeff Caldwell says their purpose is to keep new and recovering drivers safe.

The price is $460 for the full class, and $535 to include training in skid control and avoidance. Caldwell, who is also the PDS training manager, says some students avoid PDS because it’s more expensive than other schools. But Caldwell said he thinks what sets PDS apart from other driving schools are the instructors.

“All of our instructors are current or retired police officers and most of them have been traffic homicide reconstructionists; they’re the guys who investigate fatal crashes,” Caldwell said. “Or they’ve been EVOC (emergency vehicle operation course) instructors, and they’re the people actually teaching police officers how to drive.”

Caldwell says PDS goes above and beyond what the typical driving school does.

“We’re here because we see the fatals, we experience all that kind of stuff. I mean we’re there seeing body parts and pieces. We’re there to knock on a door and tell a parent their kid just got killed in a traffic crash, and that’s what really gives us the motivation to do what we do,” Caldwell said.

He says he has confidence that his driving instructors are 100 percent committed to what they do.

“I’m not hiring people who want a job. I’m hiring people who have a commitment to saving teen drivers’ lives. That’s who I’m looking for. That’s why I’m very particular about who I hire,” Caldwell said.

Professional Driving Systems includes more programs. In addition to the $75 skid control program, PDS is the only school in the state certified to do the advanced juvenile driver improvement program, which is a court-ordered program for second- or third-time juvenile traffic offenders. They also host a free parent class once a month on a Sunday for two hours in case parents have any questions.

And finally, there’s AAAA Driving School located at 6348 Far Hills Ave. AAAA did not return several phone calls for information about their school.

There are proposed law changes like changing the required eight hours of behind-the-wheel training to 10 hours. Also, instead of only requiring new drivers under 18 to partake in driving school, every new driver, no matter what age, would be required to participate in the full driving course.

Since the state insists on changing its laws, driving school is set become an essential tool to all new drivers regardless of age, so take your pick.