Experts say that more than 5,000 young people died in car accidents in 2013. Many of those collisions are caused by risk-taking or because a young driver doesn't know how to avoid a crash. It's a situation Doug Herbert has been working to change.
Herbert knows a lot about speed. His skill to drive fast has made him a 10-time winner on the NHRA circuit. But it's speed that also caused his greatest loss.
Six years ago, his sons, 17-year-old Jon and 12-year-old James, were going out for breakfast.
"I was in Phoenix racing, Jon and James' mom called me and said, 'Hey I think they were in a car accident,'" Herbert said.
Police say Jon was speeding, lost control and veered into the path of an oncoming vehicle. Both boys died.
"I wish my younger son would have told my older son, ‘Hey, don't drive like that, you don't need to drive like that, let me out of the car, or slow down,'" Herbert said.
Out of Herbert's grief B.R.A.K.E.S - Be Responsible and Keep Everyone Safe - was born. The program teaches teens responsible driving skills.
"It's not driver's ed we do here. We're teaching the teenagers how to avoid accidents," Herbert said.
Jim Wilson signed up 16-year-old Ellie to take the class because she also drives her younger sister around.
"Oh, every time they leave the house it's nervewracking because you're not in control of the situation. That's one of the reasons why I wanted to bring her to this school so they can show her the dangers that are out there and what you can do to try to minimize those dangers," Wilson said.
Kids in the program go through classroom and hands on training. On the B.R.A.K.E.S course, teens have constant reminders that distractions can be deadly.
"They've taught us to put the phones in our console in our car, and that if we hear a ring to our cell phone, to not look at it, even if we do, more things are important in the road, because if a deer goes by, you would want to be aware of that rather than if your friend texts you," 15-year-old Julie Grainda said.
They're pushed to make fast and save lane changes to avoid a crash.
"It makes it very real to me...I want to stay alive," Grainda said.
Perhaps the best lesson learned is for parents to have an agreement with their teen.
"You don't want to get the phone call that I've got, so make this commitment to your teenager, that you'll get up, you'll bring them home--no punishment consequences. You might talk to them about what happened, ‘Hey, I don't think you made the best decision being in that particular situation where you were, but you did make a good decision calling me, I'm glad we got you home,'" Herbert said.
Ten thousand teens and their parents have gone through the program and another 3,500 are scheduled to attend this year.
To learn more, please visit http://www.putonthebrakes.com/.
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