A defensive driving course puts teens behind the wheel to learn lifesaving skills

A professional defensive driver sits behind the wheel of a car, with two teens riding as passengers.
Photo credit B.R.A.K.E.S.

Kansas City, MO - This is not your typical drivers ed class - rather it's a hands-on immersion for teenagers to learn what to do when things go wrong behind the wheel, and to become safe and responsible drivers.

The non-profit defensive driving program B.R.A.K.E.S. (Be Responsible and Keep Everyone Safe) is providing free classes for teenagers for two weekends - August 8-9 and 15-16 - at the Kansas Speedway.

A number of the program's events had been cancelled by the coronavirus pandemic, but it's now restarted and folks with the program says they are following appropriate CDC health and safety guidelines. 

Drag racing champion Doug Herbert created the program after the death of his two teenage sons in a 2008 car crash. 

“We’re teaching them lifesaving skills behind the wheel, so it’s more advanced stuff," says Herbert.

The teens will be given outside the car and then behind-the-wheel instruction by expert and professional drivers. 

”A lot of them are (former) law enforcement, racing drivers, Secret Service trainers," says Herbert.

Herbert says teens will drive a specially-outfitted car where they can make mistakes safely to learn how to handle distracted driving, panic stops, and drop wheel recovery.

“We actually have special wheels and tires and we put them out on the courses and simulate driving on an icy or flooded road”. 

The course is open - and free - to any teen with at least a learner's permit.