Is Your Teen’s Life Worth $99?

Words by Laurel Kratz photos by Richard Kratz

Yep, this is real world stuff. The half day program starts with waivers and pledges, the parents sign a pledge to give their kids a “get out of trouble free” card—should they call and need a ride a home because they or someone else can’t or shouldn’t drive, there will be no anger and tirades, just a ride home. And the teen participants sign a pledge to call home and not get in the car when they shouldn’t. From left to right, William Pratt, father of Victoria Pratt (middle), best friend of, Laurel Kratz (author).

With assistance from Contributing Editor, Lyle Larson, and the B.R.A.K.E.S. organization, Editor-Publisher, Richard Kratz signed up his 16 year old daughter, Laurel, to go through the program when it was at Pomona, California in August of 2013. Since the program is targeted to teens, we thought it would be best to let the teenager tell the story herself.

When I turned 16, I did not go straight to the DMV to test for my license. I didn’t even have a permit yet. Oddly, this wasn’t out of place among my friends. Only one of them even had a permit, the others hadn’t even started driver’s education.

There seems to be an unusual reluctance to go out and start driving in my generation, and I think I know why. We can’t hide behind a curtain of ignorant bliss. With distracted driving accidents on the rise, we—the teenagers—are most often involved. And this does not go unnoticed. We have to spend hours in school attending lectures, presentations, and discussions about how dangerous driving really is. Suddenly, the freedom to go out when you feel like it loses its appeal when placed against graphic pictures and undeniable data about the messes we make on the road. Why bother when mom and dad have been driving us around already? If all that driving has to offer is unavoidable and horrific accidents, why take the risk?

So when my dad asked me to attend a driving program aimed at teaching new drivers how to avoid accidents in the first place, I said yes. I was ecstatic. I’d finally get to learn how to stay safe on the road with lessons in a controlled environment—no risk.

Before I attended, I was able to glean this much from my dad about the program, it was called B.R.A.K.E.S. (Be Responsible And Keep Everyone Safe) and it was founded and run by a man named Doug Herbert. He had lost his sons to a car wreck, and had set out to teach other teens what to do in a situation like the one that killed his boys and countless others. It was ninety-nine dollars and a one day event. I got my best friend to sign up the same day.