A racing champion is bringing a teen safe-driving program to Bristol in early February.
Doug Herbert, an NHRA Top Fuel champion, will be bringing his B.R.A.K.E.S. advanced driving school for teens to Bristol Motor Speedway the weekend of Feb. 1-2. B.R.A.K.E.S. is an acronym for Be Responsible and Keep Everybody Safe.
The advanced driving course for teens is coming thanks to fellow drag racer and area native Allen Johnson.
“Allen wanted to sponsor the program,” Herbert said. “He knew my boys so it’s a little personal for him.”
Herbert’s two young sons, John and James, were killed in a motor vehicle accident in 2008.
The loss of his sons led Herbert to research the issue and he found that between 5,000 and 6,000 teens lose their lives every year to motor vehicle accidents. He also found motor vehicle accidents were the number one cause of death among teens.
This caused Herbert to ask himself why people weren’t doing anything about the problem. So he decided to try and make a difference.
In an effort to reduce the number of teens who are killed each year in motor vehicle crashes, he founded B.R.A.K.E.S., a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization, the same year he lost his sons
“We’ve done programs in 10 states already,” he said. “It’s rewarding and is a little bit of therapy for me.”
The classes are four hours apiece and a morning class and afternoon class will take place on Saturday and Sunday. The classes are free to the public.
When teens sign up for classes, one of the requirements is the parents have to accompany the teens to the class. The program has a separate set of instructors just for the parents.
The program will start with instructors going over what the teens will do when they get behind the wheel. It takes about 45 minutes, and once that is done it is time to get in the cars.
One instructor will take three teens out to the course. The instructor will run through the course, and then the teens will take turns driving.
Some of the things the teens will work on include panic stopping, distracted driving, what to do when a wheel drops off the road and how to recover from a skid, among others.
“The driving book tells you to turn the wheel during a skid, but it doesn’t tell you what to do after that,” Herbert said. “They get that experience and that teaches them something.”
Once the driving course is over, the teens are brought back into the classroom and given some things to take home. One is a safe driving contract and the other is a hall pass the B.R.A.K.E.S. instructors give to parents.
A hall pass is like a get out of jail free card for the teens. For example, if a teen is with a friend who is driving poorly or has been drinking with some friends, instead of getting behind the wheel drunk or riding with friends who have been drinking, teens are encouraged to call the parents and use the hall pass. The hall pass prevents the teens from getting in trouble. It doesn’t mean the teen and parent won’t talk about it.
When teens first show up they are not too enthusiastic about going to a class on a weekend, but by the end it is a 180-degree turn. Most teens really enjoy the class and pick up valuable tips, Herbert said.
He said he’s gotten all kinds of positive feedback from teens after they took the course.
Herbert said the classes at BMS would not be possible without a lot of support from others. He wanted to thank Johnson, BMS and Kia, which provides cars for the training.
Herbert is offering the classes so no parent has to experience what he did.
“It was a bad experience losing my sons,” he said. “I don’t wish any parent to go through what I went through.”