Cover Story- Teen Road to Safety

Where Safety Begins

One key to having a successful business is to fulfill a need and that’s just what Teen Road to
Safety’s president Andrew Wunderlich has done.

Due to cuts in the education system, schools can no longer afford to offer driver training like they used to. It’s all being done through private companies now. But, those companies aren’t doing a particularly good job, according to Wunderlich, and he aims to raise the bar on driver training with Teen Road to Safety.

A retired police officer with the Los Angeles Police Department, Wunderlich got a first-hand look at how devastating poorly trained drivers can be. “I found that cars were killing people more than guns were and that the accident rates among teenagers were really high and I decided that something had to be done in regards to that,” the company president said during a recent interview from his headquarters in Orange County, CA.

Despite the company’s name and focus on teenagers, it does also teach adults and seniors to drive, as well as provide corporate training to companies who want their employees to get additional driving training. But, it doesn’t just teach these people to drive enough to be competent; it uses the same training methods that police officers receive for their driver training.

After researching driving schools to see how they operated, Wunderlich felt there was a lack of training on these schools’ parts and he felt there was an obvious void to fill with truly comprehensive driver training.

“I wanted to implement something that was very similar to police officer training,” he explained.

And so, Teen Road to Safety goes above and beyond state requirements for driver training.

It provides six-, 10- or 20-hour programs that start with classroom or online driver safety education, then in-car training on public streets and wraps up with a one-day closed course training session that addresses car control.

It’s not just the training that’s provided that makes the driving academy comprehensive; it’s also the type of people who Wunderlich hires that make the difference.

In order to work for Teen Road to Safety as a driving instructor, people must have no less than 10 years of experience in a law enforcement service. Many of the people he currently has on staff, Wunderlich said, are currently serving on or recently retired from the California Highway Patrol or local police departments.

This means that teens and adults alike get a lot of good experience and instruction in a short time based on the instructors and methods used.

Big Backing

Wunderlich’s plan to teach California’s next generation to drive safely has attracted some big name backing. The company currently has a sponsorship deal with Ford, meaning all Teen Road to Safety franchises are located inside Ford dealerships. Ford provides the company with office and training space and usage of Ford vehicles, including brand new Ford Mustangs, for people to learn in.

The company also has a deal with indoor kart racing company, K–1 Speed to do cross promotion marketing support.

Ready to Expand

Open since 2004, the company now has five corporate locations in Orange County, CA and one franchise open in Newport Beach, CA in the Theodore Robins Ford dealership, Teen Road to Safety is now set to expand across northern and southern California and then into other states, with Texas, Florida, Arizona and Nevada leading the way.

“My business plan was to mentor the first franchisee,” Wunderlich said. The company has been franchising since 2011 and his early franchisee is a former employee who is also a retired police lieutenant who saw the growth of the company and wanted to own a piece of it. The franchisee now wants to purchase another franchise, no surprise considering that the business growth has doubled every year.

Wunderlich spent two years mentoring his first franchisee and now has a system in place to bring in other franchisees to help grow the brand.

He described the type of franchise prospects he is looking for as go-getters that like to work hard and are passionate about what they do. It also helps if they have a business and marketing background.

Wunderlich also wants to have a personal hand in growing the business. He said he would mentor new franchisees himself for several months to help them get settled in the business. Together, they would decide what location the franchisee is interested in and he would provide them with the contacts necessary to get set up in a Ford dealership and they would be responsible for the cities near their dealership location.

Potential franchisees can also expect a team of trainers from Teen Road to Safety to assist them, as well, he said.

Currently, he noted, he has some franchise opportunities set up that are essentially turnkey franchises at this point, just waiting for the right person to come along and jump in and start running them.

In the Beginning

It wasn’t always sponsorships and expansion for the company, though. Wunderlich started Teen Road to Safety out of his garage in 2004 and built it from the ground up into the business growth juggernaut that it is today.

Part of the reason for the phenomenal growth can be attributed to the fact that the company is so unique in what it offers that it essentially has no competition.

Wunderlich said there are no driving academies that offer anything even close to the level of training that he is offering due to the type of instructors he uses and the type of training they offer. No other driving academy is using current or retired law enforcement officers and professional stunt and race car drivers for the advanced training.

Wunderlich estimated that the company has about 700 students training in all its current locations in any given month.

From those humble beginnings in his own garage, Wunderlich has seen the reputation of his business and himself take off. He recently appeared on The Doctors TV show; he regularly appears in magazines and speaks at schools about teen driving safety. He was hired by Mercedes Benz to instruct that company’s employees at their in-house driving academy and Teen Road to Safety regularly gets recommended by courts and attorneys to assist people to improve their driving.

Wunderlich didn’t just identify a need and fill it; he’s created a demand and is filling that. Now all he needs are the right people with a strong desire to own a thriving business and do something great.

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