Is your teenager driving? Here’s a safety program to check out

A free defensive-driving course will be offered this weekend, and organizers are encouraging local teens to take part.

Car crashes are the No. 1 cause of death among teens, ahead of murder, suicide and diseases. The safe-driving program called BRAKES (Be Responsible And Keep Everyone Safe) has battled that problem by training more than 35,000 teens over the past decade through its national program.

“BRAKES graduates are 64 percent less likely to get in a crash within the next three years,” said program spokesman Jeff Perlman.

The non-profit organization that operates the hands-on driver training was born out of tragedy: Top-Fuel drag racing champion Doug Herbert founded it after his two teenage sons, Jon and James, were killed in a 2008 crash.

MORE: Former drag racer turns tragedy into life-saving driving lesson

The four-hour course goes beyond traditional drivers education, offering teens extensive behind-the-wheel instruction from former law-enforcement officers and professional racing drivers, aimed at teaching teens and their parents how to be safer on the road.

Some of the practical, life-saving techniques include how to avoid crashes, how to recover from skids on slippery pavement, avoiding panic braking, and how to recover from the dangerous situation of having two wheels go off the roadway. Those are some of the biggest wreck causes for young drivers.

RELATED: Ohio’s deadly roads — Region sees rash of fatal motorcycle wrecks

Sgt. Jeff Staples of the Hamilton post of the Ohio State Highway Patrol said such courses can be very valuable.

“Any kind of training like that is helpful, because inexperience is the big reason why that age group crashes,” Staples said. “So any kind of experience like that would be helpful.”

One technique that will be taught can be very helpful, particularly on rural roads. Drivers will learn the best way to safely return the entire vehicle to the roadway after two wheels go over the edge.

“People tend to over-react” when the wheels leave the right edge of the road, Staples said. “And in that case, when you over-react, you wind up the left side of the road.”

MORE: Which cars are most distracting? AAA study reveals offenders

The free classes are offered from 8 a.m. to noon and from 1 to 5 p.m. both Saturday and Sunday, Nov. 10 and 11, at Riverbend Music Center, 6295 Kellogg Ave. in Cincinnati. To sign up, go to

According to the highway patrol, teen drivers were involved in 135,882 traffic crashes from 2015 through 2017. Crashes where teens were at fault killed 285 and injured 41,917. While only 4 percent of licensed drivers in the country were 19 or younger in 2016, those teens accounted for 15 percent of all crashes.

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