Taliyah Wade checks her side and rearview mirrors as Leah Cannon buckles her seat belt.
While Wade, 15, has driven around her neighborhood before, she legally got behind the wheel for the first time after receiving a learner’s permit about two months ago.
“I get nervous a little bit,” Wade said. “But it’s good to have (an instructor) right there helping you.”
Her first lesson with Cannon, an instructor at Killeen Driving School Inc., was March 29. Since then, Cannon has attended class for an hour each week to log driving hours.
“It’s pretty good and nice to have to have (Cannon) around to teach me how to drive,” she said.
Retired Ellison High School special education teacher Gary Mullins, director of the driving school, said he started teaching driver’s education in 1978.
“It’s just something I enjoy,” he said. “It’s just a love of teaching.”
Mullins encourages parents to enroll their children in the driving course so they can get formal instruction prior to receiving their licenses.
“We’re a little more structured, more so than the parent-taught or the home program,” Mullins said. “We’re all professionals.”
The cars the teenagers use have a second rearview mirror and set of brakes in the passenger seat, which allows instructors to carefully observe the students’ fundamentals. During his course, Mullins said students will learn things some parents may overlook.
“We cover all the environments,” Mullins said. “We’ll put them on the highway for an hour, in the country for an hour, city streets for two hours and parallel parking is a big deal.”
Instructors provide feedback on skills, such as signaling at the correct time, staying in the middle of the lane, keeping a constant speed on highways, changing lanes smoothly and different types of parking.
Mullins said he also focuses on making teenagers aware of distractions, such as road rage, changing the stereo and texting.
The only cellphone-use laws in place in Texas prevent teenagers from using an electronic device while driving and prevents everyone from using a cellphone in school zones.
“Too many drivers today are on their cellphones; they’re texting more and more,” Mullins said. “It’s just not smart.”
After numerous hours in the classroom and on the road, Wade expects to receive her provisional driver’s license in November.
“(I look forward to) being free to leave whenever I want and not have to wait on somebody else to take me,” she said.