Interview with George Agganis
How Two Safe-Driving Advocates Took on the State of Massachusetts—and Won
The Safe-Driving Story Begins…
“The first thing I noticed when I started this business was that kids took the road test without completing the required hours of behind-the-wheel instruction,” says founder George Agganis, who opened the Reading school in 1972.
Over the course of 24 years, Mr. Agganis turned safe driving into his own political cause. In the 1980s, when the number of Massachusetts new driver accidents rose to a record 44%, he began corresponding with state legislators. He demanded that government do a better job of monitoring driving schools and imposing stricter standards for instructor certification.
He was furious when told that budget cuts made it impossible for the Registry of Motor Vehicles (RMV) to oversee Massachusetts driving schools.
“I did the only thing I could think of: I started monitoring local driving schools myself.”
In addition, he began offering instruction—at no extra cost—to driving students who needed help passing the driving exam.
Igniting a New Approach to Driving Instruction
Mr. Agganis fell into part-time driving instruction while still a math teacher at a local junior high school. In 1971, he retired from the public school system and opened a driving school with brother-in-law, James Mamos. They offered instruction in Lynn. A year later, the partnership split into two independent schools—and thus was born the Agganis School of Driving.
His zest and skill for teaching made him a natural as a driving instructor. He was known among his students as a straight shooter.
“I wanted to show students what could go wrong if they messed up behind the wheel,” Mr. Agganis says. “I told stories that scared the daylights out of them; with special emphasis on local news reports about crashes involving teens.”
His teaching approach was based on his belief that teenagers have the physical ability to drive a car but lack the mental maturity to make good driving decisions. In his opinion, students needed safe driving principles instilled repeatedly into their young psyches. He was ahead of his time.
Three decades later the National Highway Traffic Administration reached the same conclusion. In 2006, the agency conducted a study that showed inexperience, hormones, and underdeveloped cognitive reasoning were the main causes of traffic accidents among drivers under the age of 20.
The Agganis Driving School curriculum was developed on the principle that students needed more training and more reinforcement than the existing laws required. So the challenge began…