Investigation: How safe is your child's private Pennsylvania driving school?

ByChad Pradelli and Cheryl Mettendorf WPVI logo
Tuesday, January 10, 2023
Investigation: How safe is your child's private Pa. driving school?
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The Action News investigators found that several private driving schools advertising for paid lessons in our area are not licensed by the Pennsylvania Department of Education as required by law.

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Pennsylvania requires private driving schools to be licensed with the state as well as their instructors.

But Action News found some schools and instructors are skirting the law.

The Action News investigators found that several private driving schools advertising for paid lessons in our area are not licensed with the Pennsylvania Department of Education as required by law, including "I'm Around Driving," "Nigels Driving Specialist" and "Driving School 101."

"I'm Around Driving" owner, Juelz Park, is the only school to respond to our repeated requests for comment.

"Well I tried to take the steps to get certified as required, but it's hard, no one wants to have a business that's doing good and not have the proper license," said Park.

Park couldn't really explain why it was so hard to get licensed. But she says she saw a need for her underserved community, instructing, by her estimates, 200 people all while acknowledging she has no formal training.

Under Pennsylvania state law, if you own a driving school you must have a license and that license posted in your place of business.

Instructors who teach driving must have a teaching license from the Department of Education. Driving and written exams must be passed, and critical criminal and child abuse background checks must be cleared.

Instructors must also have their teaching licenses on them during driving classes.

"Can you understand why parents would be concerned about your lack of credentials and criminal checks?" asked Action News investigative reporter Chad Pradelli to Park.

"Absolutely, absolutely," she responded.

Jason Fidishun owns John's Driving School based out of Bensalem.

"We're trying to keep kids safe, and you don't know who you're putting, you know, your kid in a car next to, if they're getting the right training or not," he said.

Fidishun said he is frustrated. He said too many of his competitors are employing instructors without the proper teaching licenses. One he claims is "Driven2Drive" out of Bala Cynwyd. He says two people applied for jobs with John's Driving School claiming on applications they'd worked for months at Driven2Drive.

Action News spoke with the men who applied for jobs and they confirmed they taught driving without proper licensing. Background checks showed that one man had a misdemeanor marijuana conviction from 15 years ago. The other had multiple charges for fraud, trespassing, and bad checks.

After repeated calls went unreturned, we confronted Driven2Drive owner, Ed Kraftmann. He wouldn't answer questions and went inside and pulled down the blinds.

The Pennsylvania Department of Education tells Action News unlicensed drivers are not a major problem. Yet after we began asking questions, it sent a letter warning driving schools across the state that instructors must be licensed. It also issued a cease and desist letter to Park.

"My gut feeling is that this is just the tip of the iceberg," said Pennsylvania State Representative John Galloway of Bucks County.

Galloway has asked the Department of Education to look into the issue and asked the Pennsylvania Attorney General's Office to crack down on unlicensed schools and instructors.

"What we know is that this is a serious safety concern," he said. "What it leads to -- we'll find out."

You can search for a licensed driving school on the Department of Education's website.

Our investigation found it had an outdated list dating back a few years, but the department has said it is now fixed.