He started with Jon and James’ classmates as a way to connect with the kids in his circle of friends, teaching them defensive driving skills that he would have liked his boys to learn. Teenagers, even without a father, who make a living in drag racing often drive faster than they should, not understanding the ramifications of a bad decision and lacking the skills to avoid accidents to avoid their own death (and that of others). The kids found an acronym that stuck: BRAKES (Be responsible and protect everyone).
“I started the program to teach my boys’ friends how to be better drivers,” Herbert told me. “The sincerity and the level of focus that we have built on this point made the difference. Other programs are businesses that are there to make a profit. We’re trying to do something right to make sure another parent doesn’t get this call that I got. This sincerity shines through.
Herbert was determined to make this course free for teenage drivers so that everyone could participate and no one was ever prevented from attending due to the costs. “That is why it is and always will be free,” he says.
He established BRAKES as a GuideStar Platinum 501 (c) (3) rated nonprofit, supported by Kia Motors America (which provides vehicles and program support) and several other corporate sponsors, donors and suppliers of grants like General Motors. Notably, Terry Vance, 14-time NHRA Pro Stock motorcycle champion, donated $ 1 million to Herbert’s program in 2019. Herbert started in his home state of North Carolina, and in June, BRAKES has taught over 45,000 young drivers (and their parents get to join them) in sessions across the country. That’s 10,000 more children since the program’s last reported milestone in 2019.
Instructors are pros, including current and former law enforcement, professional runners, and stuntmen, and the student-teacher ratio is three-to-one to keep you focused. Herbert points out that this is not a driving course; it is a hands-on advanced driver training program. The now retired drag racer is committed to making the roads safer for everyone, updating the program to accommodate the ever-changing DOT statistics that provide details on the causes of crashes. The current offering includes Distracted Driving, Emergency Braking, Coast / Off-Road Recovery, Collision Avoidance, and Car Control / Skid Recovery.
If you have a teenage driver in your home, I highly recommend this course. There is a $ 99 deposit to keep the number of no-shows to a minimum, but this $ 99 will be refunded upon request. What the organization has found is that many people, if they can afford it, will donate the $ 99 to BRAKES at the end. For those who cannot attend one of the courses indicated on the putonthebrakes.org site, there are a few others with similar goals, like Tire Rack Street Survival program and Ford’s driving skills for life.
Whatever you do, don’t rely on driver education classes to teach your kids strong defensive driving skills. A course like this could absolutely save their lives and others on the road.
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