Wednesday, March 15, 2006

How to Pick a Driving School - or not

Remember how I said earlier that my niece is learning to drive? Last week I had to cancel one of her in-car driving sessions with the driving school. Being as lazy as I am, I decided to look up the school’s info on the web. I mean, how hard could it be? The computer was right in front of me, the phone was next to the computer, and making the call was on my list of things to do. While I was browsing the search results for driving schools in the Potomac area, I started questioning some people’s choices when it came to naming their businesses. I know people say the most important thing for starting a business is location, location, location. But you gotta take a little care in choosing a name as well. The names of some of the schools were very professional and instilled a sense of safety and seriousness. Some were straight forward. For instance, the school I needed to call, where kids in Potomac go to driving school, is called, interestingly enough, Potomac Driving School. See? What you want is a driving school. And you’d like one that’s not too far away, probably locally owned. Well, fairly locally since it’s actually located in Rockville but that’s within easy…ummm…driving distance from Potomac.

And, there’s a special advantage the Potomac Driving School offers. It provides instruction in Tagalog. I’m not sure where they speak Tagalog but I’m sure the drivers there must be very good, especially if they took lessons at the Potomac Driving School. By the way, if you want to learn to drive a stick shift at the PDS, it’s an extra $50. I think that’s very reasonable considering if you try and teach your kid to drive your Porsche with the manual transmission it’s going to cost a lot more than $50 to replace the clutch.

Anyway, I feel much more comfortable that the sixteen-year-old is taking lessons at the Potomac Driving School rather than, say, the ELS Driving School. I don’t know what language they use in their lessons but if it’s not English, she’s not going to learn a whole lot. Oh, wait. Nevermind. It’s the ELS Driving School, not the ESL school. My bad.

Now, since she wants to take lessons in Montgomery County, she could have chosen Ed’s Driving School, or maybe Greg’s Driving School. They’ve both been teaching for ten years, and there’s only $9 difference in their prices, but Greg specializes in teaching teen and beginning drivers. I’m not sure how much sense it makes to point that out but it seems to me that’s where most of your business is going to come from. You know. People who don’t know how to drive.

Ed and Greg might both be really nice guys, but when it comes to driving, I’d take the business a little more seriously. It’s not like you’re looking to buy an ice cream or something. Let’s see, Ed’s Ice Cream vs. Ed’s Driving School. Maybe Ed could put a drive-thru window at his ice cream shop. Though I’d prefer to buy my gourmet ice cream at a shoppe. No, you’re entrusting your precious (or, in some cases, and you know who you are, not so precious) child to these people. That’s why I’d lean more towards working with the fine folks at the Maryland Driving Academy. Now doesn’t that instill confidence? I might even consider the Ryden Driving Institute. Sounds kind of exclusive, doesn’t it?

I’m not sure a beginner would be prepared for the techniques taught at the Advanced Driving School, unless the people at Advanced are just trying to BS their customers and really teaching beginner classes. And how do you choose between the Easy Teach Driving School and the Easy Method Driving School? If you can’t make up your mind but still want to go the easy route, check with Mr. B’s Drive with Ease.

Blue Bird Driving School…sounds like a place you’d send your pre-schooler to learn how to drive that Little Tykes minivan that’s just like mom’s. Or where you can learn how to drive a school bus. Actually, I think the classes are taught by a little old lady who only teaches on Sundays and never endangers your child by teaching highway driving.

Great Commission Driving School. Maybe it’s not a bad idea for the instructor to get paid commission. It gives them more incentive to make sure your kid passes the driving test. Though I might be more tempted by the Arrive Alive Driving School. That sounds like a pretty good incentive.

You know, there’s more than one way to learn how to drive. There’s the Nu-Way and then there’s the Riteway. Tough choice. The Nu-Way might just be better than the old Riteway. But do you really want your kid being the one to find out? Plus, if the owner can’t spell Right right, how do you know he’s going to teach right. Right?

I might be tempted to check out the Safeway Driving School. It sounds kind of, well, safe. Until you remember you do your grocery shopping at the Safeway. I want my kid to learn how to drive a car, not push a cart.

Do you want to learn how to drive from the Top Dawg or the Top Driver?

Places I’d definitely stay away from? How about the AA Driving School? Hmmm. Did they pick AA to be at the beginning of the alphabetical listing, or does the AA actually stand for something. You’d have to be MADD to send your kid there.

The AB Discount Driving School is also kinda scary. You get what you pay for.

Even scarier is the 123-ABC Linnell Driver Training School. Again with the pre-schoolers? Sounds like it should be the 123-ABC Potty Training School.

But the number one school I’d stay away from, even if because I just didn’t want to tell anybody the name, is Peggy Pusey’s Driving School. “Miss Pusey says you should always use your turn signals.” “Miss Pusey says you should look both ways before entering an intersection.” “Miss Pusey says…” “I don’t care what Miss Pusey says! I don’t ever want to hear that name again!” (My apologies to the Pusey’s of the world. Just be thankful you’re not related to Gary Busey!”)