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By Peter Barrett
Safety First 

Teacher, officer learns from students

 


Very soon I will hit two important milestones in my professional career--my 10th year of service as a police officer for the City of Arlington, and my third year as both an owner and an instructor at 911 Driving School of Marysville. In some ways, it is amazing the time has gone so fast. I feel blessed to have these opportunities and to be in these positions. As the saying goes, if you love your career you will never work a day in your life.

A little over three years ago, co-owner and instructor Seth Kinney came to me and asked if I would consider being a teacher of drivers education to new drivers. Seth told me about 911 Driving School and the opportunity to use our law enforcement skills, experience, knowledge, and training to help teach teens about safe driving. I was very excited by the idea, and it seemed like such an awesome idea to have police officers educating new drivers about traffic safety and collision avoidance. After all, as police officers we are the ones who respond to the carnage caused by collisions, and we find ourselves trying to educate people after the collision about how it all could have been avoided.

The only downside to Seth’s plan was that the nearest 911 Driving School location was in Lynnwood. This was a long journey as Seth and I both lived in Marysville. Even so, we started the process of applying to be trained as instructors. Shortly after we began the application process, Seth asked me, “What if we opened a location in Marysville?” I gave it some thought, and as they say, the rest is history.

But as we complete our third year in business, I have begun to reflect on the time we have been open and all the students we have taught. When we began this initiative and business venture, I knew well what training, knowledge, and experiences I could bring into the classroom from my years as a police officer. I knew that those skills and expertise in traffic safety would help me to excel in the field of traffic safety education.

What I did not expect was how much I would learn from my students in return. The more they learned and the more engaged they became in the program, the more I also learned and grew. I look back and I see that as much as my background and experience as a police officer helped me to become a great instructor to those teens, my time teaching in the classroom and in the vehicles has in turn made me a much better and more well-rounded police officer. I learned from my students’ questions, their concerns, and their opinions. I have learned that their effectiveness as new drivers increases significantly when it goes beyond simply knowing the laws and the consequences, to when they truly have an understanding of the purpose and “spirit of the law.” And when I look at my career as a police officer during these last three years, time spent with those students has vastly improved the patrol work I do on the streets, the traffic enforcement initiatives I participate in, and the interactions I have with our citizens.

As I reflected on the impact that the students have had on me as a person these last few years, and how I have applied it to my career in law enforcement, I started to discuss this topic with the other Instructors at the driving school. I was a bit surprised and overwhelmed by their responses, as they also shared that the students were having an immensely positive impact on them when they returned to work as deputies, police officers and troopers. I heard them explain that they feel more well-rounded on patrol, they feel as though they have grown their skill sets and improved at communicating the law to traffic violators and speeders, and they have become even more focused on solving the traffic safety issues in our respective communities.

The benefits and the impact of being an instructor were somewhat unforeseen when we all started this, but they are very real and we now know they extend well beyond the classroom walls.

Over the course of my career as a police officer, I have learned to understand and apply a lot of laws. Today as I reflect on my career, my business, and these amazing opportunities, I suppose I learned another law: “The Law of Unintended Consequences.” It is defined as “a positive, unexpected benefit (usually referred to as luck, serendipity or a windfall).” This definition could not be truer or more real for me and the rest of the cadre at 911 Driving School. We feel very lucky, very positive, and our personal and professional lives have benefitted so much. We are all looking forward to driving this industry ahead for years to come.

 

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