Long live the humble driving instructor!
Scoff if you will, but a driving instructor is a damn good thing to be. And it’s not something that everyone can do. You need people skills in addition to great driving skills. An instructor, like any teacher, must be able to communicate clearly, and motivate and inspire people to learn. Becoming a safe and competent driver takes time and practice, but a dedicated instructor can help you get there faster.
You might work for a licensed driving school, or open your own, or administer road tests for the ministry of transportation (or its equivalent). You’ll need to be certified by the government, and the requirements vary slightly from place to place. Essentially, you’ll need superb driving skills, a clean driving record, and at least a few years of experience. You may be required to complete a driving instructor training course before you apply for your certification, and that will likely include passing a few tests (road test, safety and traffic rules, and perhaps teaching skills). You can’t just slap a “Student Driver” bumper sticker on your car and start charging people. There’s a procedure in place that must be followed.
But why? Why would anyone want to spend their days teaching arrogant teenagers how to drive? Well, for starters, you’d be surprised how many of your students are adults. New arrivals to the country, people who never bothered to learn when they were younger, or people you need a new class of license for work. And the pay, while not astronomically high, is very decent. The job website Indeed lists an average salary of $37,000 in 2013. You could be a full-time employee, or part-time and get paid by the hour. There’s a lot of flexibility.
Want more? Check out these 10 (tongue-in-cheek but still kind of true) reasons to become a driving instructor.
1. Constant demand
There is always demand for driving instructors, in every state and province, of every country where there are cars. It’s endless. And with teenagers hitting the legal age requirement every day (a teenager somewhere just turned 16. And another one. And another), there’s no end in sight. You could be as busy as the proverbial beaver, or as lazy as the proverbial sloth. It’s your choice. But when you do want to boost the number of students you have, people will undoubtedly lineup. Getting your driver’s license is seen as a rite of passage into adulthood, and teenagers can’t wait to get it and start begging mom and dad to borrow the car.
2. You get to sit all day
This might not be for everyone, but if the very notion of physical labour sends a chill down your spine, then driving instructor to the rescue! There’s not a lot of opportunity for standing when your job is to teach people how to drive...unless, of course, there’s a sunroof and you want to do the “standing up in the sunroof” routine on a regular basis (editor’s note - not recommended). Otherwise, settle into those soft leather bucket seats, strap yourself in, and pass on your wisdom. Get one of those kickass bamboo seat covers to really up your sitting game.
3. Meet new people
It’s kind of paradoxical: you stay in one place (in the car), but you travel (while driving around) and meet lots of new people. They come to you. Every 30 or 60 minutes, a new potential BFF shows up and hops in to go for a ride. It’s like speed dating, but for friends and associates. Yeah, many of them will be a wee bit younger than you, but not everyone. It’s like spinning the roulette wheel: you just don’t know where it will land and who will get in.
4. Power and prestige
You wouldn’t think it, but driving instructor has a lot of power (and at least some prestige that goes along with it). Think about it. You hold their entry into adulthood, and greater freedom, not to mention that cool factor that comes with being the first in a group of friends to get their license, in the palm of your hand.
Your clipboard is like a stone tablet in their eyes. Their fate is written on it. You can choose to be the wise and benevolent leader, or the vengeful and malevolent entity that destroys lives and dashes dreams against the rocks. It’s your choice. Pick one and go with it, or rotate back and forth each day to keep things interesting.
5. You love driving for driving's sake
Hopefully, as a driving instructor, you at least “like” driving. But many people - myself included - simply adore driving. The freedom. The thrill of exploration. The wind blowing through your hair as you cruise the highway with the windows down. People drive for fun, to relieve stress, or just for something to do. The road trip is iconic in that sense. Just hop in and go. The destination doesn’t matter...it’s all about the journey itself.
6. Never having to yell 'shotgun' again
No one knows when it started exactly (it can trace its origins to the stagecoach days when the passenger up front literally carried a shotgun to defend against attacks when traveling between towns), but yelling “shotgun” as a means of procuring the passenger seat for yourself is widely accepted and understood. There’s no use resisting it. When someone is the first to yell “shotgun,” they get to ride up front. No argument. As a driving instructor, you never have to do that again. You have shotgun privileges for life (much like the fabled but rejected “shotgun infinite” that no one recognizes). Say goodbye to that horrible feeling when you forget or are simply too beat to say it. No more! Rejoice!
7. Total radio control
There are a lot of unwritten rules when it comes to the radio station in a car. Some people adhere to a “driver’s choice” system while others recognize special circumstances or right to choose from navigators. Some even grant it to guests in the vehicle. No matter. As an instructor, it’s always your call. No licensee in their right mind is going to question it, or your selection. Love the easy listening station? Go nuts. Have an affinity for death metal? Play on. Even if it’s not your car, you still get first choice. And in the unlikely event that your student has the audacity to presume to change the radio...fail?!
8. You’re making the world a better place
...one driver at a time. Let’s be honest. There are a LOT of bad drivers out there. They forget to signal, can’t park between the lines, follow too closely, don’t understand roundabouts and 4-way stops, fail to signal when changing lanes, speed, and a slew of other offenses. As an instructor, you’re in a unique position to reduce that. The world will thank you, and build statues in your honour. Seriously.
9. Your car is a business expense
Check to be sure (you don’t want to mess with the IRS), but if you use your own car for lessons, then you can file business expenses on gas, maintenance, and even monthly payments you make towards your lease or loan. At tax time, that could come in handy, n’est pas? Again...check and verify (IRS = scary).
It doesn’t carry the same clout as doctor or lawyer, or the huge paycheck that comes with a contract in the NHL, NBA, or NFL, but driving instructors are the unsung heroes of this world. Decent pay, decent power, decent benefits (don’t dismiss the shotgun and radio privileges that come with the job), and people will sincerely thank and love you when you whisper those three little words...here’s your license.
And one final reason for the adrenaline junkies among us: a bad teenage driver can turn your car into the scariest roller coaster imaginable. That’s reason enough right there.
Over to you. What other not-so-obvious benefits and reasons can you think of for being a driving instructor?