Conquer the Road: Good to Go, With Rocheskey’s Keys to Drive

By MARIA SCANDALE | Dec 13, 2017
DRIVE CONFIDENT: Pinelands Regional schoolteacher Don Rocheskey fills a continuing need for the learner driver population.

Traversing the twists and turns and bumps in the road toward becoming a driver can be daunting to a 16- or 17-year-old – and their parents. No wonder instructors such as Don Rocheskey are booked in advance.

After working for more than six years with a premier driving school in the area, the Tuckerton resident became certified by the state to open and operate his own school last year, Rocheskey’s Keys to Drive.

Another reason that approved drivers’ schools are in demand is the fact that area high schools no longer teach the six-hour, behind-the-wheel course that is required by the NJ Motor Vehicle Commission before 16-year-olds can get their learner’s permit. This is the only way a driver can get a permit before they turn 17, and thus be ready to take the test on their 17th birthday. Those who wait to get the permit when they are 17 and older have the choice of using a driving school, or following the process outlined on the MVC website, whereby they can learn from dad or another qualified driver.

Rocheskey, a teacher in the Pinelands Regional School District (photography and graphics), repeatedly heard students’ concerns about getting their licenses. Being a schoolteacher, a driving instructor through another company, and previously employed as a photographer and delivery driver all over the state, the car buff was a natural to start his own business.

The job requires taking young, often scared novices down the road to becoming confident, safe drivers.

The fact is, “Sometimes when you get a student in a car, they are green, have never been behind the wheel before, and they can be scary; there is no other way to put it,” he answered to the reporter’s first question.

One most common mistake among first-time learners is, “They don’t know how to steer. When they turn, they lock their arms and everything is a panic.” Another is settling into the knack of braking. “A lot of them, when they stop for the first 25 or 30 times, they want to throw you through the windshield. I try to tell them, ease on the brake.”

That’s where the teacher’s low-key, patient personality – and the dual braking in the instructor’s car – comes in. “I have a brake and I can grab the steering wheel if need be.”

In short, the road is a lot safer when proper (and required) safe driving skills are taught.

In his words, “The mission of Rocheskey’s Keys to Drive school is to offer affordable door-to-door service from patient, highly qualified professionals. Training drivers to function behind the wheel in a caring and re-assuring environment allows students to learn crucial skills necessary to not only pass the driving test, but be safe lifelong drivers.”

Parents thank him. Remember the idiom from the old ad campaign, “This is not your father’s Oldsmobile”? Well, 2017 is a long way from the time that some of us took the drivers’ test.

“Holy moly!” wrote mom Amanda Horner on the Facebook page. “I can’t tell you how happy I am choosing Mr. Rocheskey to teach my son to drive! Very thorough and kind. Explains everything. You know exactly what to expect. He went above, beyond and out of his way for us.”

Driving instructors know what the testing officials are looking for, and it’s very specific. Rocheskey’s students will practice all of the skills that they will encounter on the road test.

“There’s a protocol; they want to see the parallel parking done in a specific way,” Rocheskey said by example. The driver can’t just get the car into the slot. He or she must use the mirrors, the turn signals, and hands properly placed on the steering wheel, to pass the state-administered road test.

The school teaches safety skills to last a lifetime. “You’ve got to pay attention to everything. You should be 12 seconds aware of your environment all around you,” Rocheskey said. “Behind you, off to the side; you want to be aware of everything, and you should prepare for 12 seconds ahead.”

Today’s technology is a good thing, Rocheskey feels, in helping students navigate. The new Toyota Corolla hatchback that he bought for the business is equipped with a backup camera and other safety features.

“Just in the last year, you have been allowed to take your road test with a backup camera,” Rocheskey said.

“It also has the lane sensitivity control, so if you drive across the white line, it beeps at you,” he added. “It has braking control so you cannot rear-end the car in front of you.

“It’s good for the students. Sometimes it’s like a bad game of Operation,” he joked, “because it’s going off all the time.

“The technology, especially with the line control that keeps them on the road, is good for when they first start out, because a lot of them like to ride the white line because they’re scared of the oncoming traffic. But as soon as they touch the white line it starts beeping at them and telling them they need to get back on the road.”

The road to which he is referring can be heavily trafficked in New Jersey, and the training takes learners out on various kinds of roads, from residential to highway to parkway.

The training is three hours on each of two days. He will pick them up at their home and drop them back off there, if requested.

“The first day, I go all the way up to Toms River on Route 9, all the way out through Whiting down 539, out to Chatsworth and back to Tuckerton, and back to wherever they live.”

The second day, the learning curve takes on the Garden State Parkway. “The second day we hop right on the Parkway. I usually drive to Barnegat and go all the way down to Cardiff.” They also learn and practice “K” turns and parallel parking.

When they’re done, “They are pretty proficient behind the wheel, usually after six hours,” the instructor said. “After about a half hour or 45 minutes, they start getting comfortable in the car. The first half-hour is the worst; all of them are scared, but you can watch them get more relaxed as the drive goes on.”

The aim is to teach the safe way to drive, and the skills to pass the test the first time. After the course, he validates their permit through the Department of Motor Vehicles, gets a road test scheduled, and they can practice further for the eventual road test, with supervision, as the law specifies.

After their six hours behind the wheel, a learner can practice driving with a driver who has been licensed for at least three years. The hours they are allowed on the road are from 5 a.m. until 11 p.m.

By the way, students can take the road test in the driving school car if they choose. “Drivers will have the opportunity to take the car they’ve practiced with to their road test to ensure a more comfortable feel when testing. Our instructor will pick you up on the day of your test, take you to your testing site, and then deliver you back to your home, school, or to your parents at the closest MVC in order to get your license.”

More specifically, the driving school’s services to prepare for the driving test or the written test are outlined on the website, A basic package is $300; some other services are extra.

Rocheskey’s Keys to Drive also offers a refresher course that is given close to the time that the driver is going to take the road test. The behind-the-wheel training helps new drivers ace the road test. They will have reviewed the necessary skills, when it may have been a year since they learned them the first time. He will also take the driver to the drivers’ test site.

Established drivers may want to consider the brush-up course, “to stay safe on the road and feel confident in your ability to drive, no matter what age you are.”

Another bit of information that longtime drivers might not know, is that hands should be in the 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. positions on the steering wheel, as now recommended by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration. The change from the former “10 and 2” position is due to possible severe hand injury during deployment of airbags, published reports explain.

For more information on the services, or to contact Rocheskey, see the website or call 609-294-1580.

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