South Charlotte

He's been the king of the road for 33 years

If you're ready to jump into the driver's seat, Paul Faulkner will show you the rules of the road.

Faulkner's Driving School in Matthews has attracted teen and adult students looking for a flexible schedule and personal touch for 33 years.

"I don't want to be the biggest driving school, just the best," says Faulkner.

The 64-year-old challenges students to take personal responsibility at the wheel for a lifetime of safe driving.

Faulkner's philosophy focuses on safety and being constantly alert.

"When I'm teaching kids, it's called information overload," he said. "This means students must react quickly to road conditions, so they don't have time to get nervous."

Through Faulkner's customized lesson plan, students learn how to get on and off the interstate, make basic left and right turns and U-turns and get in the habit of checking their mirrors and blind spot from the start. They also learn to fearlessly navigate busy streets like Independence Boulevard.

Faulkner makes hard lessons easy for teens.

"It's like when a mother gives a kid medicine; you put it in orange juice," he said. He said he has students make decisions about approaching intersections, turning and stopping. He also notes road signs and potential hazards as part of his six-point check plan.

"They think they could never hit a car," he says, but when they almost do, Faulkner turns the incident into a "Kodak Moment." When students realize a mistake can mean an accident or death, "that light goes on" in a student's head, he says, and then, as an instructor, "You have nothing to worry about."

Students love Faulkner's real-life stories and humor. They also enjoy the flexibility of taking his class on the weekends, since they may have after-school activities during the week.

High school sophomore Bobbie Jones, a sophomore, when asked to describe Faulkner in one word, says he is "helpful."

Freshman Cody Leviner said he appreciates Faulkner's cautionary road tales.

Faulkner is a grand presence at his classroom podium. "I don't debate, I don't argue," he says. "They're there to learn.

"I love teaching teenagers. ... I've been dealing with them all my life."

Faulkner, who lives in the Lake Wylie area, has been a teacher for 41 years and has taught teens since 1990. He ran the driver's education program at Sun Valley High School for 18 years, retiring in 2000.

Faulkner opened his business in 1978 by first teaching adults, including students with special needs.

In 1979, he taught 21-year-old Gene Helms - who was deaf and had cerebral palsy - how to drive, through shoulder taps and pointing.

Faulkner offers 30 hours of classes and six hours of driving for $300. Those looking to improve their driving can take six hours for $230.

His most popular package is 13 driving hours for $400, with two hours free.

In fact, most of his business comes from word-of-mouth: His "secret weapon" is moms who tell other moms.

When Faulkner's off the road, he's with his wife, Dolores; three children, Reggie, 43, Chante, 31, and Franklin, 32, who teaches alongside his dad; and five grandchildren.

Faulkner said he gets a kick from riding his motorcycle and has been an avid photographer for 20 years.

"They say that if you find something you enjoy doing, you never work," he said. "I haven't worked a day in my life."