As parents to five children, Fred and Amy Elliott know the importance of safe driving.
As a longtime driver’s ed teacher, Fred knows all too well the value of professionally taught new drivers. In 2000, when the Shawnee Mission school district cut their program from the curriculum, he and wife, Amy, decided to open Behind the Wheel, Inc. (BTW).
They inquired to the state of Kansas about opening a commercial school and learned the state required only eight hours of classroom instruction. Knowing the serious nature of driving and the fact that this course is about life and death, they decided to provide 16 hours.
“This opportunity seemed perfect,” Amy says. “Additionally, as the business grew, Fred found several driver education instructors excited to join our team. It’s our goal at BTW that student drivers will become responsible drivers. Students come to us with all levels of experience, including many who have never started a car.”
Students from both Missouri and Kansas begin in the classroom setting. For a memorable extra learning tool, each class includes three guest speakers who share their expertise, including a police officer, a railroad engineer and a semi-truck driver.
“Learning to drive is a process, and we believe driver education provides a solid foundation. Students are taught many skills ranging from parking, protected and unprotected turning, navigating busy traffic and highway driving,” she says. “This foundation makes it easier for parents to practice the required 50 hours of driving with their teen. Together we are making safer and more responsible drivers. In an age of more distractions, it’s imperative that students are not only taught the basic driving skills but also to be defensive drivers at all times.”
Opening BTW gave Amy the opportunity to quit teaching and stay home with their young family. All five children have grown up helping with the family business, cleaning cars, creating advertising, organizing, whatever needed to be done.
“Our son, Scott, now 17, recently automated our enrollment process,” she says.
Being the largest school is not their goal, rather they want to offer the best program possible: “Our classroom is conveniently located in Overland Park inside University of Saint Mary. Students learn to drive on newer Toyota Camrys and are always picked up at home, work or school for driving lessons,” she says. “Typically, students go out in pairs which provides safety and additional observation instructional time.”
The Elliotts would like all parents to know that in their opinion, driving with your teen the 50 practice hours is imperative. This task is done on the honor system, and they encourage parents to download the free app, "Road Ready," to track their teens’ driving.
“We will never know how many lives we have positively changed, but we do know we always do our best to provide students with quality instruction from classroom to car. Return families often share with us what good drivers they have at home,” she says. “This is the greatest reward, knowing we are accomplishing our goal.”
Visit behindthewheel.org for more information about classes or call 913-599-6818.