By Marie Gilmore
Can you remember your first car? Mine was a 1981 Ford LTD with two doors and automatic steering. It was easy to park… just find the furthest spot in the parking lot, far away from other cars because when those doors opened, they needed space.
Fast forward to our local community with hundreds of teens graduating from Learner’s Permit to Driver’s License on a daily basis. Driver’s Ed is an option if available but offers limited ‘real world’ driving opportunities. To fill the gap, a private company such as Alafia Driving Academy with its own vehicles, its own instructors and an actual curriculum that doesn’t include the words ‘mom’ or ‘dad’ are a great option and peace of mind for parents of those new drivers.
And, as Alafia Driving Academy owner Cole Dolmseth will tell you, although they have a superb curriculum to follow for new drivers, that only makes up half of his business. The other half range in age from 24-74 years old and are also need the reinforcement for merging, parking, collision avoidance, Interstate driving, hard braking and staying safe on the roadways.
“We’ve had more than eleven hundred local students through our school,” said Dolmseth, “This represents more than 4,500 hours on the road.”
Alafia Driving Academy was launched four years ago after Dolmseth left the IT market in order to go into business for himself. These skills are evident in the professionalism of the company. Lessons are scheduled online and the student and parent receive email and text reminders of the upcoming appointment. After the lesson, a synopsis complete with lesson plan, map of routes driven and list of skills learned is shared.”
“What I love best about this business is working with new drivers and breaking them out of their shells,” adds Dolmseth who grew up in Hawaii and is an Air Force Veteran. “A lot of kids are really withdrawn and giving them the freedom to get out and drive really opens up their world.”
Brand new drivers typically need anywhere between five to eight hours to complete the training. The student is picked up and dropped off from home and lessons are typically 60-90 minutes each. Alafia Driving Academy provides the vehicle equipped with an instructor brake and state-of-the-art safety features. Vehicles in the fleet include new Mazda CX-5 SUV’s.
In addition, Alafia has a stick shift vehicle available for training and offers a DMV prep. In fact, for an extra fee, an Alafia instructor will escort the student to the DMV for the test.
Alafia Driving Academy is a Valrico-based business and is celebrating four years in business. Currently, it has five instructors, including two Veterans, offering lessons throughout Eastern Hillsborough.