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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883


Applying the B.R.A.K.E.S.

Tragically, an inordinate number of teenage drivers — some 5000 annually — lose their lives in automobile accidents.

We all hear about those disasters in the news, but when one father, NHRA drag racer Doug Herbert, lost his own two sons in a 2008 highway wreck, he went further.  He founded B.R.A.K.E.S., a non-profit entity designed to quell the carnage.  So far, his non-profit organization has schooled more than 12,000 particpants in vital driving skills.

Many drivers could use added skills, but based on sobering statistics, the Be Responsible And Keep Everyone Safe group aims their Teen-ProActive driving course at highly-vulnerable teen drivers.

Traffic fatalities remain the number one cause of teenage deaths.  Specifically, here are some of the sad facts regarding these novice drivers:  The chance of a crash in the first three years of driving is 89.2%; Teens have the highest crash rate of any age group; The crash rate for drivers 16-19 years old is four times higher than for drivers over the age of 20.

Fueled by those realities and his own personal losses, Herbert’s non-profit has now educated young drivers from 29 states and 2 countries at B.R.A.K.E.S. events that have been held in at least 10 states.  Headquartered out of North Carolina, schools are held there and in South Carolina, California, Arizona, Florida, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Georgia, Alaska and Massachusetts.

Course instructors consist of driving professionals from racing, driving schools, engineering and other automotive fields, some joining the cause due to their own “close to home” losses.  Courses are held over a weekend and let 140 students receive hands-on training and experience in carefully chosen segments.

There are five segments of focus:  1) The accident avoidance and slalom course is a two part course that forces students to make a split second reaction to negotiate a quick, evasive lane change without losing control.  This part of the course is designed to simulate an animal or object jumping out in front of a car.  The second part of the course is a coned slalom where students must negotiate their vehicle around cones while focusing on weight transfer, hand positioning, and eye scanning.  2) The drop wheel recovery course teaches students how to effectively recover from a drop wheel situation (wheel off edge of paved roadway) by regaining control of the car and safely returning to the roadway.  Drop wheel accidents are among the highest causes of injuries and deaths in the state of North Carolina.  3) The distraction course forces a driver to negotiate a tightly coned course while being distracted by the instructor. The course is designed to demonstrate just how dangerous cell phones, text messaging, music, traffic, and friends in the car can be.  4) The panic stop course is designed to teach students the proper technique to stop a vehicle in the shortest distance while maintaining control.  Students experience first hand the effects of an A.B.S. (Anti-Lock Braking System) and its ability to keep the wheels from locking with pulsating brake pressure. 4) A wet skid pad course is designed to prepare students how drive in bad weather situations and not to lose grip (control). The students are taught how to properly recover from both over-steer (rear wheel) and under-steer (front wheel) skids.

I detailed the entire curriculum because I think it contains needed skills for enhancing vehicle control in emergencies and effecting successful accident avoidance.  Good drivers need to be proficient in these procedures and should consider seeking help if they are not.

The B.R.A.K.E. Website is, where one can sign up for courses scheduled in many of the aforementioned states in the upcoming months.  Even though the closest venues to the northwest are Arizona and California, the course tuition is free.  There is also information at the Website suggesting procedures for involvement in organizing and funding a “bring it local” campaign.

The course offers an opportunity to learn drastic driving maneuvers in safe, controlled, test conditions — gaining experience that will pay off in the real world.  Each time a weekend course is held, 140 youthful participants will come away with tools to help them stay out of those dreadful accident statistics.

Readers may contact Bill Love via email at