On The Road With Aunty Jo

Jo Kahawai
Owner, Aunty Jo’s Driving School

Please tell us about your business. My business helps people know what to do on the road. It’s a lifetime skill that needs to be taught so that people can drive on the roads safely. I started this business in 2001.

Why did you start this business? My daughter RuthAnn begged me to be her teacher, as she was affected by the new law – at the time, driver’s education became mandatory. Prior to that, it was get your permit and you got your license. Call me an opportunist – I saw a need with my daughter and her friends. When I started I had five students, including my daughter.

Are your classes for people of any age? Yes. I’ve had an 83-year-old woman and the youngest is 16.

Are all your students beginners? A few of them start knowing something already, but have to be corrected. A majority of the people, as far as adults are concerned, have never driven before. So I take them from scratch to the license bureau.

Where do they first get behind the wheel? Everyone starts at Vidinha Stadium. I show them how to make the car fit them, how to set up the mirrors, the seating, how to find the stop lines, and how to make right and left turns. Then I take them into the neighborhood. It’s fun to see a novice person learn to drive for the first time.

Where do you take people to drive? We drive the back roads as well as the main roads, so they not only know how to handle the curves, but also when other cars are approaching. They also get familiar with the roads on Kaua’i, where they live. I take them behind Kapahi and Loop Road – a number of the kids have never even been to those places. I do the South Shore, and my Westside kids I give a choice where to go. Eastside we go to the North Shore. My adults, I normally take to the South Shore and do the tunnel of trees, for example, so that they can feel what it’s like to control the car correctly.

What is the driving experience like for adults and high school students? I incorporate all of my knowledge from the classroom into the car. I like to be able to teach them from real-life experiences. When it’s hands-on, you learn a lot, including the weather. Whether it’s raining or not, we’re driving. High school students drive for six hours, but I try to give at least eight so that I feel comfortable. Adults stay with me until they get their license.

How many people are in a class? I try to only have three people for the driving from 6 to 8 p.m., I go to Kapaa and meet at the missionary church there.

What’s the most rewarding aspect of your business? Getting texts from the high school students when they get their licenses.

What’s the most challenging aspect of your business? Wanting everyone to feel good about what they accomplish.

What makes you get up every day and go to work? I’m a people person, so meeting people and being with people.

What kind of car do you use to teach? A 2007 Chevy Equinox. I love using the car even though it eats my gas. It allows so much comfort for my students.

Do you have any future plans for your business? I would like to start another school on the North Shore. If I start a school on that side of the island, it would free up parents from having to bring them to Kapaa to meet and having to come back from the North Shore to pick up.

For more information, call 651-2585.