What's It Like to be a Driver's Ed Instructor

Bill Kennedy has been behind the wheel for half a century and has taught more than 20 thousand teenagers the rules of the road.

Bill Kennedy Driver's Ed Kansas City


Nerves of steel, a demeanor that’s not prone to screaming “Watch out!” or “$#%*!” and your own foot brake are all must-haves for being a successful driver’s ed instructor. Bill Kennedy has been behind the wheel for half a century and has taught more than 20 thousand teenagers the rules of the road.

• “I started driving at age 17 and have always enjoyed traveling in a car. My parents were constantly emphasizing safe driving. While in college, I was able to enroll in 3 semesters of driver’s education. During that time, I taught several students to drive and truly enjoyed it.”

• “I have been scared a few times, but the worst was when I was teaching a student how to enter the freeway. We were approaching the highway in the acceleration lane and I asked the student to speed up from 40 to 50 before we merged into the right lane. I told her I would tell her when to gradually move into traffic. A semi was approaching in the right lane at around 65 mph and I told her to wait until it passed and then we would have plenty of time to pull in behind it (with no traffic). She panicked and started to pull in front of the semi. Our vehicle was half in the right lane and half in the acceleration lane and we were only 15-20 yards in front of the semi. There were two other students in the back seat. Based on what they were yelling, I could tell they were scared. I grabbed the steering wheel, pulled it to the right to move out of the right lane safely and avoid contact with the semi. The 18-wheeler just missed us, honked his horn and saluted us with his finger. We had to pull over on the shoulder of the highway for all of us to relax and review the situation, which took about 10 minutes.”

• Formal driver’s education began in 1932 when an engineering professor established classes at a high school in Pennsylvania to cut down on teen driving accidents.

• “The number of drivers on the roadways has increased dramatically which creates an increase in traffic congestion, vehicle speed and distractions. Thus, drivers seem to be more impatient and frustrated with their driving environments. Because of this, I feel drivers have gotten worse over the past 45 years. Sometimes it is difficult to find a courteous driver.”

• “Rules to follow: 1. Never take your eyes off the direction you are traveling for more than one second at a time. 2. Always drive the conditions.”

• More teens die in car crashes than from any other cause of death. Fatalities are split almost equally between teen drivers (56 percent) and passengers (44 percent).

• “The worst thing a parent can do while driving with their kids is probably showing some degree of fear in your voice or outright yelling. This is never good for building a positive atmosphere while your teen is behind the wheel, plus, you don’t have a brake on your side.”

• In the 1970s, 95 percent of high school students received driver’s education instruction through their school

• “I have attempted several vocational endeavors in the past years but teaching driver’s education has been the most fun and satisfying. I doubt that I could ever be a race car driver. It is too fast for me – everyone is trying to cut off each other and no one signals a lane change. I feel more comfortable with a novice driver in the driver’s seat in a parking lot practicing right and left turns.” 

Categories: People