Real stories, real people.
Meet Leah, a driver education instructor with a passion to make our roads safer.
Leah Hansen is a certified instructor for LBCC’s Driver Education program. Each instructor
has their own reason they teach safe driving to teens, but for Leah, her passion is
The privilege that driving allows has been something Leah has appreciated for most her life. She spent many years as a Corvallis city bus driver and often considered becoming a driving instructor. But, it wasn’t until a fateful event nearly a decade ago in which she finally found the motivation to start teaching.
Charles Simmons, her former husband, was a lawyer in Eastern Oregon. He was leaving for an early deposition in court on a September morning in 2009. He had driven almost 100 miles that morning and was only 9 miles away from his destination when he fell asleep behind the wheel. When his car crossed the center line, he hit a truck pulling a livestock trailer and died on impact.
“Even though he had his seatbelt on and his airbag deployed,” Leah said, “he was in a tiny car and the vehicle he hit was very heavy.”
Although all the factors surrounding his accident are unknown, what Leah does know is that he worked long hours, often on little sleep. With many hours of preparing and planning for his cases, she believes his routine of limited sleep caught up to him.
“Safe driving is something I am super passionate about,” she said, “because obviously, his accident was horrible, and I don’t want it to happen to someone else if I can help it.”
In the classes Leah teaches, she focuses not only on the rules of the road and how to safely operate a vehicle, but she also reiterates personal preparedness and safety.
“Drowsy driving is the same as driving impaired, and far more pervasive, actually,” she said. ”And teenagers are especially apt to drowsy driving because their lives are very full.”
With school, work, sports, homework and social obligations, teenagers need more sleep than most adults and making sure her students understand the importance of staying alert while driving is a personal mission for Leah.
For the last four years, she has been teaching about 25 students a term. After Leah’s
students get to know her throughout each term, during the final weeks of class she
shows them a photo of her ex-husband’s car at the scene of the accident.
“They watch a video about drowsy driving and then I show them the pictures,” she said. “The response has been positive every time. They’re obviously very engaged because it happened to someone they know, which is me.”
With many of the students approaching her after class and thanking her for sharing her story, Leah looks forward to each new term when she gets to meet and educate her next cohort of young drivers.
We, at Extended Learning, look forward to helping you or your loved one become a better driver too.