Teenagers and their families in the Tiffin area have a new option when exploring the world of driving.
Tiffin-based St. Christopher Driving Academy opened this summer, providing a program that owner and instructor Rick Brodman said offers new drivers and their families "a local presence with a personal touch."
Brodman said being a locally owned company means many of their students are from families the Brodmans know personally, which strengthens their commitment to providing expert and successful driving instruction.
He said he and his wife, Cindy, decided to pursue opening a driving school after one of their sons turned 15-and-a-half, and they found available options for driving lessons to be lacking. The Brodmans felt other schools were weak in certain areas, he said, which led them to begin the process of opening St. Christopher.
Brodman said opening a driving school involves a large amount of preparation and financial commitment, and was a time-consuming processInitially, he said, they were required to go through training at another driving school, including classroom and driving time, and also had to solidify a location for their school, have a specially equipped Ohio State Patrol-inspected vehicle ready for students, and have a background check performed before even approaching the state for an application to open the school. The process involved about 100 hours of work and preparation, Brodman said, in addition to a financial investment.
St. Christopher now operates two vehicles, he said, and each is equipped for student drivers with special rear-view mirrors and signage, in addition to passenger-side brakes.
Brodman said he and Cindy are licensed driving instructors through the Ohio Department of Public Safety, and both provide classroom and vehicle instruction. Cindy, he said, has been a school teacher for more than 20 years, and therefore has experience teaching.
St. Christopher Academy, Brodman says, takes a unique approach to teaching its students, incorporating a mix of humor and blunt truthfulness as it imparts the immense responsibility of driving a vehicle.
"I don't shy away from my feelings about the importance of decisions," Brodman said. "I openly let them know that behind the wheel a driver is more dangerous than a loaded gun."
During the classroom portion of the St. Christopher driving course, Brodman says, a strong focus is placed on decision-making, and a variety of teaching tools are utilized to make learning truly hands-on. For example, he said, students have the opportunity to wear beer goggles to simulate impairment, and are then required to walk a straight line, providing a real-life example of "how decisions impact life."
In addition, a speaker is brought into the classroom each month to address students, which Brodman said offers a question-and-answer period and often involves exhibits to further engage students. Those exhibits, he said, help reinforce to students the real consequences of bad decisions while driving.
Brodman said classes at St. Christopher Academy include 24 hours of classroom time and eight hours of driving, which is broken into four sessions. Classes take place at Tiffin Elks, 106 W. Perry St., and class size averages 12-17 per session, he said. For registration or additional information, Brodman suggested visiting the school's website, stchristopherdriving.com, or calling (419) 585-0239.
He and his wife decided on the school's name, St. Christopher Academy, Brodman said, because St. Christopher is the patron saint of safe drivers.