By Guest Blogger Marybeth Barrett
Do you want some not so fun facts? Car crashes end more teen lives than cancer, homicide and suicide Council EVERY single day, according to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. Yup. That caught my attention, too.
Car crashes are the #1 killer of teens ages 15-19! Incidents of dropping wheels off the road are the #1 cause of all fatal crashes. And six out of ten teen crashes involve driver distractions. It kind of makes you want to vomit, huh? I have a 16 year old, newly licensed driver, so these stats felt like a major sucker punch to the gut. You too?
So, what can we do about it?
There are a lot of defensive driver courses available in addition to in-car and classroom Drivers Ed training. My son and I chose to go with B.R.A.K.E.S. “Be responsible and keep everyone safe.” It is a non-profit started here in NC, but they do this program nationally. Check their website for a location near you. Sadly, it was started by Professional Driver, Doug Herbert, who tragically lost BOTH of his teen sons in a car accident. I can’t even imagine. Being a Mom of two boys, I can’t even let my mind go there. Doug did not want other parents to have to go through what he has, so he created this Teen Pro-Active Driving School.
I signed my son up and he was an unwilling participant because of course every teen can think of a million other things that they want to do besides “school” on a weekend. In the end, he actually said it was worthwhile and kind of fun to boot.
What does it entail?
The class is 4 hours on a weekend day. Three of those hours are spent under the guidance of a professional driving instructor in the car, and behind-the-wheel. There are one to two other students in the car with your child so they can watch and learn as well.
What do they learn?
Students get hands-on experience in 5 areas:
- Crash Avoidance/Slalom
- Distracted Driving
- Drop Wheel Recovery
- Panic Braking
- Car Control and Recovery
What was the experience like?
Parents and students start the day together. Then they take the students to their car… and parents too! We get behind the wheel as well! We only do a small sampling, but we get to do the Panic Braking and Crash Avoidance/Slalom.
Crash Avoidance/Slalom has two driving areas. One has cones set up and you have to maintain your speed and calmly swerve your way through the cones. It is harder than it looks. The second part the students get to speed straight ahead and then a light signals which lane they have to swerve through mimicking as if something was in the road ahead of them that needed to be avoided.
Distractive Driving was pretty funny to watch. The students are put through a few tests. The Instructor will do everything from blasting the radio, turning on the wipers, bouncing a ball off the dashboard, etc. to try to distract your driver as they drive the curved course. They also have to put on a pair of driving goggles that emulates what it is like to drive drunk! The kids were all going off the course, running over cones, etc. Check out this video, you can hear all of the parents laughing. It is officially funny in a controlled environment but wouldn’t be in real life.
They let the parents try the glasses on, as seen below. Then they had us TRY to walk in a straight line and do a sobriety test. Oh, my word, I could NOT do it. The instructor kept having to catch me to keep me from falling. I thought that was a great eye-opener for the students.
Drop Wheel Recovery is when they have the driver speed up and go pretty fast, then the students have to make two wheels go off the road and slowly, yet calmly maintain control and correct the problem. Remember my opening stats about this being the #1 cause of fatal crashes? Yes, this is a very important station.
Panic Braking was a lot of fun. You put the petal to the metal in a straight line towards a cone with a sign and you aren’t allowed to turn or apply the brakes until the instructor tells you to do so. It was crazy!
They want you to know what it feels and sounds like when the ABS brakes engage, so this helps you do just that. It also gives them experience with a more controlled response when braking in an emergency. The kids loved this station!
Car Control and Recovery was another kid favorite. They got to do burn-outs and donuts over and over again. The point is to teach them out to maintain or regain control in wet or ice road conditions. These are things they don’t get hands on experience with in regular drivers ed. Listen to the parent’s commentary.
Each driver gets to practice every task multiple times to create muscle memory for when and if it happens in real life.
How much does it cost?
You have to put down a $90 deposit to reserve your spot when you sign-up. You can choose to donate that amount after the program or ask to get a refund. I donated mine. It was worth EVERY penny and then some! They believe in the importance of this program so much that they would do it for free. That is pretty amazing. Our donation helps them to continue to bring this program to students across the country. I will happily support that.
How do you sign up?
Go to the website. Find a location near you. Find out when they open registration and then be ready to try to log in AS SOON AS they OPEN registration. It fills up within minutes. It is that good.
- If your child wears sunglasses, you may want them. It was super bright.
- If you child gets carsick, you might want to take a non-drowsy medicine to prevent motion sickness. I felt like I might get sick. I asked where the barf bags were as soon as I got in the car. I was joking, but not really joking. 😉 There were two teens that had to sit out for a minute to get their stomach back in order. They were pretty green.
The parents and students join back together at the end to sign a teen pledge to promise to drive responsibly and to finish out the day.
Was it worth the 1.5 hour drive to get to the class? Oh, heck yes. Will my second child be doing it too? Double, heck yes! He is actually going to LOVE it.
All in all, both my son and I walked away learning something new, and it was 100% valuable information. This is a great program and I highly recommend it for you and your teen. My husband is going to come next time. Each student can have up to two guests that participate. I am hands down going to do it again.
Thank you to Triad Moms on Main for letting me share my experience so we can all keep our “babies” safe!