GRIMES, Iowa — From where to put your hands on the steering wheel, or how to complete the perfect parallel parking job, Dallas Center-Grimes’ Dennis Briggs knows it all. But in his 51 years of teaching our future leaders, he’s never taken the job lightly, knowing their decisions behind the wheel can be life or death.
“Everyone is excited to drive so everyone behaves. So it’s kind of fun to teach because a lot of kids want to do it. It’s a lifetime skill,” Dallas Center-Grimes Driver Education teacher Dennis Briggs said.
If you’re driving in the Des Moines metro, chances are you’re on the road with someone taught by Mr. Briggs.
“Well I started in 1968,” Briggs said.
For over five decades, Briggs has been riding along with some of the most inexperienced drivers and says anyone can do it, as long as they have three things.
“You have to have an angel, you have to be able to grab the steering wheel, and you have to have a brake,” Briggs said. He’s used that brake more times than he can count.
“Kids ask me all the time when they get in the car, ‘do you have a brake?’ And my answer is ‘do you think I would get in a car without a brake with you?’” Briggs said.
His list of students ranges three generations and includes his children and six of his 11 grandchildren.
“It takes a lot of patience and I think he has a lot of patience. I think he’s been a great person for this position,” Kara Wishman, Briggs’ daughter said.
The stories are endless.
“We had a flat tire after a right turn and I was driving and I was like, ‘I’m going to fail! My grandpa is going to have to fail me because I got a flat tire because I was taking a right turn too fast,’” Caleb Andrews, Briggs’ grandchild said.
“I thought my foot was on the brake, but it was actually on the accelerator and so we ended up going up over the curb and hitting somebody’s mailbox,” Kellee Andrews, Briggs’ daughter said.
Despite all the close calls, Briggs says he’s never been worried while on the road, but instead once he leaves the student’s side.
“I’m most worried about the kids and their choices that they make once I hand them their certificate. Are they going to make the right choices, do the right thing?” Briggs said.
This summer is Briggs’ final Driver’s Education course. He currently has one student in the class whose parents he both taught to drive.
He says the biggest change to the courses throughout the years is teaching students about distracted driving and road rage.
“Driving is only three things, it`s ‘see, think, and do’ and if you can’t see, you can’t think and do. So we stress a lot about distractions, cellphone, eating food, looking away, talking to friends and so on,” Briggs said.
Prior to teaching in the Dallas Center-Grimes School District Briggs taught Earth Sciences, along with Driver’s Ed, at Johnston High School for more than 35 years.