Program teaches safe-driving skills to teens

Dave Kunz Image
Saturday, July 15, 2023
Program teaches safe-driving skills to teens
B.R.A.K.E.S ("be responsible and keep everyone safe") aims to teach defensive-driving skills to teens.

Everyone seems to look for safety features when they buy a car. Particularly a car for family use, and particularly a car that a teen may end up driving.

Subaru's got something pretty slick called EyeSight - it almost literally watches the road for you.

But experts say the number one safety feature of any car is the driver.

"It's a skill. It's a life skill. A lot of people don't put emphasis on that skill and learn how to properly drive. So we teach them life-saving skills behind the wheel," West Coast manager of B.R.A.K.E.S.

That's an acronym for "be responsible and keep everyone safe." The free training program was born out of tragedy when professional drag racer Doug Herbert lost his two teenage sons in a crash.

"Hit a car head-on. Killed them both instantly," said Brendon Short.

That was back in 2008, and the program gives driving-age teens specific behind-the-wheel training to react to an emergency with an instructor in the passenger seat.

Exercises include emergency braking, how to react if two wheels go off the pavement, and a very pertinent drill these days: what can happen if a driver is distracted. Out in this controlled environment, the only thing anyone's going to hit is an orange cone.

All the cars in the classes are provided by Kia, free of charge.

And to simulate a car sliding on a wet or icy road, they put special plastic covers on tires for low traction. Students get to feel what it's like to skid, and then learn how to recover from one.

B.R.A.K.E.S. has been around for 15 years now, travels the country, and is successful. They offer some stats as proof.

More than 110,000 teenagers and parents have been trained. And, with the skills learned, they became 64% less likely to get into a crash.

That impressive number of graduates is still a drop in the bucket, and tragic crashes continue.

Just last week, three Murrieta teenagers lost their lives in a solo vehicle collision. Investigators have said that both speed and loss of control were likely factors.

This weekend's classes have filled up, but B.R.A.K.E.S. will be coming back to Southern California soon enough. Twice later this summer in San Marcos in northern San Diego County, and they'll be back in Pomona this fall.