I've been in Chicago this week for the annual meeting of ADTSEA, the American Driver & Traffic Safety Education Association. It's the group that represents and supports driver ed instructors nationwide, and I'm proud to serve on the association's executive board.
On behalf of client The National Road Safety Foundation, we honored five driver ed teachers with the Teacher Excellence Award. This year's recipients are Kel Hirohata of Honolulu, Andrew Unseth of Shakopee, Minn., Susan Carney Lammerding of Arlee, Mon., Dale Ludwig of Minot, N.D., and Richard Ritter of Burlington, Vermont.
In remarks at the closing dinner Wednesday, Connie Sessoms, a past-president of ADTSEA and the head of driver education for more than 22,000 young drivers in Charlotte/Mecklenburg County in North Carolina, noted that people often refer to his profession as "just a driver ed teacher." He went on to remind us that if someone gets a wrong answer in a math exam, you can erase it and try it again. But make a mistake when driving, like over-correcting if you swerve or not wearing your seat belt and you could be in a ditch, up a tree or thrown from the car with serious or fatal injuries. With driving, you don't always get a chance to correct a mistake.
So, Connie said, what driver ed instructors do is save lives.
Whenever I attend an ADTSEA conference, I come away impressed by the passion these teachers have for what they do. And many do some much more than teach kids how to drive. Many act as mentors and help them learn to make smart decisions about a wide array of things from drugs and alcohol to bullying and self-confidence.
The conference was notable for the absence of Dr. Allen Robinson, who just retired after a lifetime in traffic safety and driver safety be education, including 24 years as CEO of ADTSEA. Allen has been a humble giant in traffic safety, as a teacher, researcher, a mentor and a leader. I've enjoyed working with him and I wish him all the best in retirement.