Program gives teen drivers valuable, lifesaving tips

Across the country, more than 5,000 teenagers are killed in wrecks every year.
November 25, 2013 8:54:54 PM PST
Car crashes involving teenage drivers are a big problem. It seems every few days, we're reporting another heartbreaking story.

Across the country, more than 5,000 teenagers are killed in wrecks every year.

My 16-year-old son and I hit the track in Raleigh to check out a new program which is steering teens and parents toward safer driving habits.

"This allows more tools to be put in a teenagers' toolbox when they get behind the wheel," said Sgt. Jeff Gordon with the State Highway Patrol.

For the first time ever, the Highway Patrol has opened its training track in Raleigh to non law enforcement for a program called "BRAKES." Drivers are able to do things on the track that they can't do on the road.

"They're in a closed environment," said Gordon. "What better way to let them do the kinds of skills than here at the Highway Patrol driving facility."

Drag racing star Doug Herbert created the BRAKES program after his two teenage sons were killed in a wreck outside Charlotte.

"About 80 percent of teenagers will get into a wreck in the first two years they're driving," said Herbert. "We found teens who go through the BRAKES program have a substantially lower risk of getting into an accident."

Teens are divided into groups. They learn behind the wheel, and learn from the other kids in the car.

"They're learning about anti-lock brakes, how to control skidding in water, dangers of texting and driving, what to do when a wheel drops off and how to bring the car back on the road," said Herbert.

What makes this program unique is the parents also get behind the wheel and we get to put our skills to the test.

Herbert is hoping his program promotes conversation between kids and parents about safe driving, and makes these teenagers more confident behind the wheel. He doesn't want any other parents to get the phone call he got about his teenage sons.

"That's what this is all about," said Herbert. "Trying to make a difference and prevent other parents from going through the experience of losing a kid."

In all, 140 teenagers went through the program in Raleigh over the weekend, including the children of five state troopers. At the end, the teens sign a "teen driving pledge" to always drive responsibly.

Click here to learn more about the program.

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