Making Alberta Roads Safer, One Student at a Time

AMA driving instructor Terry Ma used to spend his days surrounded by the smell of freshly baked bread. That was back when he was a bakery manager for Save-On-Foods. But, after 20 years of making raisin bread every single day, he started craving something more exciting. Upon the encouragement of a co-worker, an AMA driving instructor herself, Terry decided to make the switch and go from baker to driving instructor. Today, Ma is surrounded by traffic, as he teaches new students how to drive. But due to the high-level of training required in his new career, the transition wasn’t exactly easy.

“Intense” Classroom Training

Ma jokes that the level of training he received still gives him nightmares today. “They put us through quite a lot,” he says, and rightfully so, since teaching people of any age to drive is a huge responsibility. A seasoned driver himself, he knows how dangerous our roads can be, “I wanted to pick a profession that could teach people how to curb the danger and hopefully start changing driver attitude.” Ma says that’s the first step to making our roads safer, and his training allows him to do just that.

During the classroom training sessions, potential driving instructors review everything from the basic learner’s handbook all the way up to the rules and laws of the road. In addition, instructors are required to upgrade their licences from a Class 5 to a Class 4 (commercial vehicle licence). In order to do this, instructors like Ma have to go through a road test with Alberta Transportation. To get licensed to teach, instructors must also complete a final road test with the Government of Alberta.

Up-to-Date Driving Skills

During the classroom training, potential instructors are taken out on the road to practice their driving. Just like the students they hope to one day teach, each potential instructor is taken through their own set of driving lessons. “Even though we have our licences, after so many years of driving, a lot of the rules do change,” Ma says. He credits the AMA with keeping instructors’ skills and safety practices up to date. “I’ve been driving for 27 years, and I still learn new stuff. You always think that you know everything about driving after all these years, but the rules do change and you still end up learning a lot more afterwards.”

Now a fully licensed driving instructor, the learning isn’t over for Ma. Every two years he’s required to update his driver’s licence, and complete another round of in-vehicle assessments with a senior driving instructor. That senior instructor reviews Ma’s teaching skills, and ensures that he’s following the guidelines and teaching current best practices.

All AMA instructors are also required to attend a semi-annual meeting/workshop that reinforces updated teaching practices.  They spend half of the day in the classroom and the other half in a vehicle learning about any new laws that might have come up. Regular communication with the office ensures instructors are constantly refreshing their knowledge.

Safety First

Safety behind the wheel is the most important thing. Knowing that his students will be safe behind the wheel brings Ma complete job satisfaction, as does the peace of mind he has knowing that he’s reducing the chance of hearing about one of his students being hurt in a collision. That’s his main goal — to ensure that his students are safe and remain incident-free, “because you know that they know what to do on the road.”

AMA members save $80 on any of our New Driver Programs, and graduates of New Driver Programs can also save up to $200 to use towards AMA auto insurance.

Thinking of a Career Change?

Has Terry’s story inspired you to try something new? If you are interested in a fulfilling driving career, we encourage you to check out our Careers page for potential driving contract positions in your city.

Krista is an Online Content Specialist in Edmonton with AMA, a part-time freelance writer, budding editor, jewellery maker, health nut, baker, and believer that dark chocolate makes the world a better place.