B.R.A.K.E.S. (Be Responsible and Keep Everyone Safe) is a 501(c)(3) organization that provides free advanced driver’s education through its Teen Pro-Active Driving Course program. The program was developed by NHRA drag racing star Doug Herbert, who lost his two young sons in a tragic highway crash in 2008. His grief led to his resolve to create a driving program that would help to prevent other families from experiencing similar heartbreak by teaching young drivers more conscientious and confident skills behind the wheel.
The program, which began in North Carolina, aims to prevent injuries and save lives by training and educating teenage drivers and their parents about the importance of safe and responsible driving. In 2014, B.R.A.K.E.S. conducted 104 classes and trained 3,253 teens to be safer, more responsible drivers. Since the program’s inception, more than 15,000 teenagers and their parents from 30 states and two countries have attended the B.R.A.K.E.S. program.
The program is offered free of charge to participants. Kia Motors America provided $275,000 in cash funding, as well as a fleet of 32 cars, supplies and public relations and marketing exposure through the Kia Dealer Network. Additional funds and grants for the program are provided by the H.N. & Frances C. Berger Foundation, the National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) and the Chrysler Foundation.
B.R.A.K.E.S. uses a slalom course to teach elevated steering control; a distraction exercise to teach increased focus and concentration; a wheel drop-off recovery exercise to teach the proper method of retaining control when the vehicle drops a wheel off a highway shoulder; a panic stop exercise to give teenagers safer and more controlled responses when braking in an emergency; and a car control and recovery exercise that teaches the skills necessary to maintain or regain control in wet or icy road conditions.
Internal studies show teens are more aware of their surroundings and crashes are greatly reduced due to the training they received from B.R.A.K.E.S.’ professional instructors.
In addition to educating teens, B.R.A.K.E.S. requires a parent to attend with their teen driver. The program has additional vehicles and professional instructors on hand to give attending parents the same behind-the-wheel advanced driver training as the teens. This encourages conversations between the parent and teen, and also provides a bonding experience.
In 2014, the distraction-training course was extended, creating a longer course to handle more distraction elements, and Racing Electronics built a new system for the accident avoidance course. In addition, the program reach was expanded to include training days in Tennessee and Arizona.
As a result of the program’s participation in the Kia Automotive Company Dealer show in Las Vegas, dealerships from Florida, Colorado, Texas and California reached out to B.R.A.K.E.S. and are currently working to provide additional training sites.
Born out of tragedy, this interesting and valuable training program is poised to continue its expansion to additional states thanks to a variety of partnerships, and will help make the roads safer for all.