Training Wheels on the road

Training Wheels of Oregon recently moved into its new headquarters at 1109 NE Avery St., where Jerry Conrady (above) and his wife, Kathy, bought a former utility office that has been converted to classrooms and parking for the company’s fleet of training vehicles. (Photo by Rick Beasley)

Company licensed to give driver’s ed, testing

A former high school teacher who started his own company, Training Wheels of Oregon, to meet the demand in Newport for driver’s education is now licensed to conduct hands-on driving tests.

The development is a time-saving leap forward for new drivers or renewing Oregon motorists who face up to a 90-day wait for the actual driving test at many Oregon Department of Motor Vehicles offices.

Training Wheels of Oregon recently moved into its new headquarters at 1109 NE Avery St., where Jerry Conrady and his wife, Kathy, bought a former utility office that has been converted to classrooms and parking for the company’s fleet of training vehicles.

But when the rubber meets the road, Jerry’s classroom is behind the wheel of a small sedan with dual controls for the student and instructor. Drivers’ classes, which started July 1, include 30 hours of classroom instruction and 12 hours of vehicle time — six behind the wheel. Training Wheels also offers private instruction.

“This is how you learn lifelong, low-risk driving skills,” said Conrady, who taught math, language arts, computer skills and other classes at Newport High School before steering fulltime into business five years ago. “A lot of bad habits are passed on by parents and other people to young drivers.”

You can spot a Training Wheels graduate as the motorists with two hand on the wheel, checking the reference points of the car while towing the speed limit. Graduates from Training Wheels often qualify for car insurance discounts and avoid the high cost of tickets — an expensive way to learn about driving.

In fact, Training Wheels offers court-ordered remedial driving classes for people who have received multiple tickets for infractions such as “distracted” driving.

Kathy Conrady, the company’s program coordinator, cited studies by the Oregon Department of Transportation that show students who take driver education are less likely to get into accidents than students who don't.

“We provide a safe, low-stress environment for students to learn in,” she said, noting the company is audited by DMV for adherence to high business standards. “The less-stressed the students are, the more the information seems to stick with them. Our vehicles are specifically set up with safety features and are clearly marked to make learning to drive a safer experience than it otherwise would be.”

Children as young as 15 can get a driving permit and a full license at age 16. Many parents are disappointed to learn the local schools don’t offer driver’s education, but are relieved when they discover Training Wheels of Oregon.

“It’s just not cost-effective for the schools to have it, and there’s a lot of liability,” said Kathy. “But it’s been good for us.”

To schedule a driver’s class or driving test, call Training Wheels of Oregon at 541-961-9753.

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