Founder of Non-Profit: B.R.A.K.E.S., a Teen Pro-Active Driving Course
NHRA Drag Racer and Radio Host
Meet Doug Herbert---an amazing individual and champion for our youth. Doug's story is touching and his work is powerful. I had the privilege to chat with him last week and am excited to present you with his insight and wisdom. In 2008, Doug lost his two young sons in an auto accident and vowed to find a way to prevent other families from experiencing this pain and grief. B.R.A.K.E.S. (Be Responsible and Keep Everyone Safe) was born that same year. This is not your typical driver's ed class! BRAKES courses are conducted in locations around the country in places like
the Charlotte Motor Speedway and the Southern California at Pomona Fairplex, to name a few.
Students drive cars donated by KIA in a course that teaches them how to avoid accidents on a slalom course, how to handle distraction, car control and recovery, and what many students describe as the fun part of the course--the "panic stop," (driving as fast as they can and then slamming the brakes and whippping the wheel). Parents must attend this free course (which does involve a $99 refundable deposit) along with their teen. Doug's program is making a difference in the lives of teens across the country and statistics show there is approximately a 64% reduction in crashes of BRAKES graduates. To learn more about the program, gather some excellent tips from Doug, and find out how your child can participate (rumor has it the program is coming to the Atlanta Motor Speedway), read on!
Q: Describe the program and some of the courses.
Doug explained that the course goes beyond your typical driver's education course because it addresses the driving situations responsible for many traffic accidents involving teens. In fact, his research shows that over 5,000 teenagers lose their lives each year across the country in traffic accidents. Briefly, the program includes:
1) Accident Avoidance using a slalom course to teach elevated steering control
2) Distraction Exercises to teach increased focus and concentration
3) Wheel Drop-Off Recovery Exercises to teach the proper method of retaining control when the vehicle drops a wheel off a highway shoulder
4)Panic Stop Exercises to give teenagers safer and more controlled responses when braking in an emergency
5)Car Control and Recovery Exercises that teache the skills necessary to maintain or regain control in wet or icy road conditions.
For more specifics on each course, click here.
Q: What is the "Hall Pass?"
The hall pass involves parents stepping out of their role as a parent for a moment, and being a mentor. Doug asks the parents who attend the course to consider giving their kids a "hall pass." He specifically addressed this concept when interviewed about a recent crash in North Carolina.
"Give your kid a hall pass so they can call you up and you'll pick them up with no consequences. You can talk to them a little about it, but you're not going to bust them. You know, I tell parents at BRAKES, tell you kid to call me if you don't want to go get them. I'll go get them and bring them home! You want them to come home because the alternative phone call is one nobody wants to get. Ever!”
Q: What do you recommend teens do with their smartphones when driving?
Put it in the glove box, and pull it out when you arrive at your destination.
Doug also explained that this is an excellent example of how parents can model safe practices with smartphones and driving. If kids see their parents texting and their phone in hand while driving, they will model this behavior and think it is acceptable.
Q: What are your top tips for parents of teen drivers?
1) Encourage your teen to drive defensively. Remind your teen to keep their eyes up and look through the car ahead of them. This will help your teen be ready to respond to traffic situations around them.
2) Encourage your teens to leave space between them and large trucks. An 80,000-pound truck is not very maneuverable and has many blind spots. Teach your teen to not squeeze into spaces in front of a truck. Trucks require a large stopping distance. Also, teach your teen to not ride alongside a truck, especially along the right side. Large trucks have many blind spots and often cannot see vehicles alongside them. This is especially dangerous since trucks have a large turning radius.
3) Ensure your teen does not become reliant on cruise control to maintain appropriate speeds. Cruise control should be avoided when roads are wet, since many systems do not compensate for slick roads and may cause an unintentional loss of control.
4) While your teen likely will never admit it, you serve as a role model and often help shape their habits – driving and otherwise. Remember to always wear your seatbelt, never drink and drive and avoid distractions – including texting!
5) Establish a safe driving contract with your teen. It is important to keep an open line of communication regarding safe driving habits. Click here to download a contract today and be sure to display it in a prominent location as an ongoing reminder to you and your teen.
Q: How can I sign up for the course?
The best place to go is the B.R.A.K.E.S. website for the most up to date information. At this time, there are no course scheduled in Atlanta, but plans are in the works. Click here for other locations, and click here to get on the Wait List (select Atlanta).
This has been an inspiring and informative interview, THANK YOU, Doug! There is a wealth of information on the B.R.A.K.E.S. website, including videos, press releases, and more details about the program. Click here for additional contact information.
Kathryn Boortz has a passion for working with youth and their families. She is the founder of Boortz Law, a law firm that focuses on juvenile defense.