Teaching Stettler teenagers how to drive safely – Spotlight

A long time instructor - Greg Bish has found out

A long time instructor - Greg Bish has found out

JULIE BERTRAND / Independent reporter

If you lived in Stettler as a teenager, chances are Greg Bish taught you how to drive.

He’s been the area’s sole driving instructor for the past 34 years. He also teaches to kids from Bashaw and Castor.

Bish started his career as a social studies teacher at William E. Hay Composite High School more than 30 years ago.

At that time, driver’s education was offered in high schools.

The person that had been in charge of the program did not want to do it anymore, and the superintendent decided to offer it to Bish.

“I said I was too busy. I was just starting out. I kept putting him off and he kept coming back,” said Bish.

“Finally, a year or two later, I said I’ll try it. If I don’t like it, I’ll drop it like a hot potato.”

He started teaching driving, and much to his surprise, he really enjoyed it. The class was taught during lunch hour and the practice driving was done after school.

He taught the driving class for 10 years before the government privatized the driver’s education program.

“I decided to start my own business and I continued what I was doing, but now it was my business,” said Bish.

Bish juggled high school teaching and driver’s education for many years before retiring from William E. hay Composite High School in 2006.

Driving changes

Bish says that he’s been teaching driving for so long in Stettler that he has often taught two generations of the same family. He believes he has even taught three generations in certain cases.

Throughout the years, he has seen how the way Albertans drive has changed. He believes that the driving environment has become more complex because of the increases in traffic, signs, lanes and speed limits.

“When I first started teaching, there wasn’t a street in Red Deer that was over 50 km,” remembered Bish.

“Today, there are a lot of 60 and 70 zones, dual turning lanes and all the one-way streets that were created to handle more traffic.”

According to him, drivers have also become more impatient and now have to deal with more distractions than before. Cars have more options, people tend to eat and drive at the same time and the cell phone law is not really enforced.

Of course, Bish has lots of good stories about meeting negligent drivers during class time.

One day, he was working the one-way street in Stettler with a student early in the morning. They were doing a lane change to get in the right lane when the Alberta Disaster van came whipping around the corner. It was in Stettler to do a mock disaster. They turned the wrong way on a one-way street.

“I think they saw the school and figured that’s where they were supposed to go,” said Bish.

Another time, he had just finished parallel parking in Red Deer with a student and they started to pull out. A motor home across the street was also pulling out. Bish looked and saw there was nobody behind the wheel.

“We stopped, and all of a sudden we see this guy scrambling from the back,” said Bish.

“I think he must not have put it in park or maybe slipped it in neutral and then it popped into drive.”

The game that never took off

Bish likes teaching driving so much that he even developed a board game about it with his brothers-in-law in the early 1990s.

At that time, gas companies would give customers at service stations a gift with every fill up.

“I went to one place and they were giving pantyhose. I thought we could come up with something better than this,” said Bish.

They developed the board over a period of eight months and pitched it to the gas companies. The game was a big hit with Shell. It was going to produce it offshore and pay Bish and his brothers-in-law royalties. Shell and the other gas companies, however, gave up the promotion idea before the game was produced.

Undaunted, Bish and his associates decided to produce a small quantity of a mini version of the game. Home Hardware showed interest and asked for demos to present at their spring show, where all the store owners see the available products and decide which ones they will order. Bish sent three boxes of the game and heard nothing back. After a week had passed, he called Home Hardware and the company told him they had never got the game. There had been a delivery mistake.

“After all that, we just threw our hands up and said well. But it was really exciting,“ said Bish.

The game ended up being sold for a short period of time in some Alberta stores before being discontinued.