Across America, high school is marked by certain rites of passage. Some — like Homecoming — are fun. Others (zits) are not.
Then there is driver’s ed.
For decades, it has not changed. Bored instructors cover boring material like braking distances. “Road hours” progress from parking lot practice, to real roads, to highways. Then comes the license, and — 5 or 6 hours later — the first accident.
Just about everything else in education has evolved. Whiteboards replaced blackboards. Kids no longer pass balled-up notes in class; they now send Snapchats. The cafeteria serves sushi, not Sloppy Joes.
Yet driver’s ed remains stalled in the hand-crank era.
A Weston couple, Steve Mochel and Laura Shuler — importantly for this piece, parents of 4 teenage drivers — hope to change all that.
They left careers in corporate marketing, and founded Fresh Green Light. The company’s mission is to “reinvent the way teenagers learn to drive,” making it “safer, simpler and more fun.”
Their 1st driving school was in Rye, New York. After expanding to 5 towns in Connecticut and 1 in Illinois, they’ve opened a new outlet just a short drive from home: 1362 Post Road East in Westport.
A press release promised “a more modern driver’s education experience that’s more engaging, convenient and more effective for teens and parents today.” Before
wadding it up deleting it, I wrote back: “Prove it.”
Mochel and Shuler replied quickly.
They’re “more modern,” they say, because Fresh Green Light uses tablet computers in hybrid cars, providing parents with feedback on their fledgling drivers’ progress. The company also offers tips on what to practice together.
FGL also uses in-car cameras to record lessons, and “coach” their instructors. (Who, by the way, “have experience and passion as teachers, coaches, counselors and tutors.” No more “stereotypical driving instructors.”)
Fresh Green Light says it’s the 1st school in the US to have all instructors trained and certified to work with ADHD students.
They “constantly update the curriculum with video and new clips of current event topics related to driving.” For example, the recent Texas floods demonstrated how to drive in severe rain. Out, apparently, are those memorable training films featuring head-on wrecks and decapitations.
Classrooms have “the latest technology programs and devices for students, in addition to being visually appealing beyond the typical driver’s ed classroom.” Some include simulators that allow students to experience “the real-world outcomes of dangerous driving behaviors without putting them or anyone at risk.”
(To be fair, I’m not sure that traditional driving schools actually do put people at risk.)
All classrooms have flat-screen TVs for videos and “interactive PowerPoint presentations.” Because nothing says engaged learning like PowerPoint!
Oh, yeah: FGL also offers “the best home-baked cookies during class breaks!” Take that, traditional driving schools!
The company surveys graduates 6, 12 and 18 months later. Their students have “75% fewer accidents” than the national average.
Fresh Green Light also features “convenient home pick-up and drop-off, and online scheduling.”
The company has drawn notice from CNN, NBC Nightly News, Money Magazine and Crain’s New York Business, as an innovative small business.
I must admit, I’ve never gotten a press release from a driving school before.
Well, maybe I did. But it probably was so boring, I slept right through it.
Just like most kids at traditional driving schools.