BOARDMAN -- For most of his 79 years, cars have been a part of Charles Best's life. Best worked for several years as an auto mechanic after serving in the Air Force in World War II, but it was a trip to Europe that set his career in motion.
In 1965, Best and his wife traveled to England, where a chance encounter influenced a major decision he made upon his return.
Best said he saw a car parked on a London street and was impressed with the way it was built, as well as how much different its brakes and other parts were from most American cars he was used to working with.
"It just got my eye for some reason," he said.
The car also got him thinking, and he decided he wanted to teach driver's education.
During this time, Best and his wife lived behind what was an empty building on South Avenue. Soon, however, they bought the structure and opened Best Driving School in 1968. He has run the business ever since.
During his early years of teaching, many students graduated from his class and earned their driver's licenses with eight hours of classroom time and eight hours of on-the-road instruction under their belts, he said.
Today's students have tougher requirements, having to complete 24 hours of classroom instruction, eight hours of driving with an instructor and 50 hours of driving experience with parents or guardians.
Best said he and his three instructors now spend about six to eight hours of a 24-hour class showing several videos and films, including one titled "Signal 30," which shows footage of the causes, results and aftermath of numerous vehicular accidents.
The idea is to drive home the importance of safety and good driving habits, Best pointed out.
"Many kids drive here for their class, and their parents drive home after [the student] sees it," he said.
Best Driving School also offers classes for those with hearing loss, partially or fully amputated limbs and other disabilities. The business also has remedial driving classes for people whose licenses have been suspended.
"I have to instill the law in these people," Best said.
He also has an office in Columbiana.
Best added that he sometimes works seven days a week teaching kids and adults to drive.
Often, it means placing them in challenging situations, such as driving up and down hills and on freeways so they can handle difficult situations with confidence, he said.
Nevertheless, Best isn't restricted by getting around in a vehicle. He has enjoyed flying since 1954 and for four years has owned a Piper Cherokee 140 plane, which he keeps at an airport near New Castle.