• Abigail Hall

Drag racer’s driving school comes to Wichita to teach teens, parents to be proactive

Originally published by Wichita Eagle, July 27, 2019.

One hundred eighty teens and their parents attended a professional drag racer’s defensive driving class Saturday and Sunday in Wichita.

Doug Herbert’s teen proactive driving school, B.R.A.K.E.S — Be Responsible And Keep Everyone Safe — travels across the country teaching free, advanced, hands-on driving classes to teens and their parents.

On Saturday and Sunday, the school made its first stop in Wichita, teaching four classes in two days.

The nonprofit organization began after Herbert lost his two sons in a 2008 car accident. Since then, the organization has taught more than 35,000 teens, Herbert said. The school has had classes in 23 states.

Herbert said 64% of teens who have taken the class are less likely to get into an accident within three years.

“The B.R.A.K.E.S. program provides teens and their parents with critically important knowledge and behind-the-wheel experience that has proven as effective in saving lives, and make our roadways safer,” Herbert said in an email.

Each class lasts four hours. They ran from 8 a.m. to noon and 1-5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

The classes begin with a presentation from a B.R.A.K.E.S. instructor, followed by training behind-the-wheel.

B.R.A.K.E.S. instructor Warren Kluttz led the presentation Saturday morning, informing parents and their teens what the day would entail and sharing tips before getting behind the wheel.

“We’re going to teach you this stuff and hope you never have to use it,” Kluttz said.

Here are some of Kluttz’s tips for proactive driving:

1. Nine and three, not 10 and two: Kluttz said the safest way to hold your steering wheel is to hold your hands at nine and three because it will allow your arms more room to turn quickly if needed.

2. Be smooth: Kluttz discussed the proper foot placement to the pedal. He recommends placing your heel on the ground with your foot easing midway over the pedal. This placement will help with smooth acceleration.

3. Grip is your friend: Your tires’ grip holds you safely on the asphalt. In order to maintain a safe grip, your tire pressure should be checked at least once a month and refilled based on the sticker attached to your driver’s side door.

4. B.L.T. — Brake, look, turn. Kluttz said many seasoned drivers were taught to look before braking in an oncoming collision. The proper way to avoid a collision is to brake first, then look and turn the wheel.

5. Skid control: If a car begins to skid, Kluttz said the instinct for many drivers is to oversteer to get out of a skid, but oversteering causes the tires to continue skidding out of control. Kluttz says to remember C.P.R. — correct, pause, recover. If you find yourself in a skid, simply correct your steering wheel in the direction you want to drive, pause to let the car catch up to the new direction, and recover by driving out of the skid.

After Kluttz’s presentation, the teens divided into groups with instructors to get behind the wheel for hands-on training, where they learned how to implement the tips taught in the presentation.

In the skid-control course, a plastic ring is placed over a car tire to simulate a skid. The instructors then get in the car with a student and show them how to safely maneuver the simulated skid.

Other courses simulate crash avoidance, where the student behind the wheel has to decide how to react to a last-minute oncoming collision; panic braking and distracted driving.

B.R.A.K.E.S. is funded by sponsors and donations. The class is free to attend with a $99 deposit to save the student’s spot, but many parents choose to donate the deposit to the organization, said Jeff Perlman, director of public relations.

For more information about B.R.A.KE.S., visit its website at www.putonthebrakes.org.

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