Kelly Cusick

KELLY CUSICK

Video Editor & “Compulsive Sharer”

Hi, I’m Kelly Cusick.

Growing up as an American kid in  Seoul, Korea,  I didn’t take driver’s ed in high school.  In that country, 18 years old was the minimum legal age for learning to drive.  But I turned 18 in May,  just a few weeks before graduating from high school and heading to the United States for college.

So my experience learning to drive was probably very different from yours.

I didn’t have any classroom time with a driver’s ed teacher.  My parents got me study materials and I learned the “bookwork” on my own.  I’d always been an eager student,  so that must have seemed like a pretty safe bet to them.

My mom and dad are originally Wisconsin farm kids,  so when we visited America every few summers we’d stay with my grandparents.

My driving practice happened on the beaten dirt  “road”  winding around my Grandpa Wonoski’s farm fields.  It was a rough, rutted trail and my dad rode along in the passenger seat.

Looking back, I think my parents probably weren’t sure how to handle the task of teaching me to drive. I was their oldest child, so they’d never dealt with this challenge before.  And they had each been raised on a farm,  which meant that driving tractors was a skill they’d learned gradually, beginning when they were very young.

By contrast, I was raised in the bustling, crowded city of Seoul. The only things I’d “driven” were a bicycle and a sewing machine!

I do remember one specific incident with my father,  on a downhill hairpin turn of that dirt track on my Grandpa’s farm.

I was driving a bit too fast approaching the first part of that turn,  and my dad told me to slow down.

But instead of hitting the brake,  I pressed harder on the accelerator.  I still remember that panicked feeling in my gut as I realized something was wrong and I wasn’t going slower!

One or two seconds later I realized the error and hit the brake … but it was a dangerous moment, and a frightening feeling I still remember to this day.

I’ve never asked my dad about that incident, but later that summer my parents signed me up for behind-the-wheel lessons with a Milwaukee driving instructor. He took me out for city driving and freeway driving lessons. And I did eventually get my license … but not the first time I took the road test, which was probably a very good thing because I’m sure I was still a very unskilled driver.

About 25 years later,  I was now the mom of four boys  … and my oldest son was ready for driver’s ed.

A colleague told me she strongly recommended a guy named Mike Pehl, so I signed my son up for his class.  Like many parents,  I thought I’d basically done my job at that point,  and could scratch “driver’s ed” off the list of parenting tasks to be done.

But Mike’s teen driving program includes a mandatory Parent Meeting. That presentation was a real eye-opener for me personally,  and I knew that many more parents should hear this information.  My decades of experience as a freelance video editor gave me the perfect background to collaborate with Mike to reach more families.

That was the beginning of our DriveSafeRideSafe team. I am genuinely grateful, and proud, to be working with Mike and Jayne on this effort.

I hope our resources help you and your whole family drive more safely.

Sincerely,  Kelly (Riemer) Cusick