Doug Herbert never wants anyone else to go through the suffering he felt after tragically losing his sons in a car crash in 2008.
After the accident, the drag racing star established B.R.A.K.E.S. (Be Responsible And Keep Everybody Safe), a teen safe driving program. It goes beyond standard driver’s education with a curriculum that addresses many situations responsible for accidents involving teenagers.
The program, which has been featured in People magazine and on national television, has trained more than 45,000 teens from 46 different states and five countries. The free program comes to Bristol Motor Speedway from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday, June 5 and 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Sunday, June 6.
There are testimonials from coast-to-coast of how the training has saved lives. Research from the University of North Carolina shows that teens who have taken the course are 64 percent less likely to get into an auto accident.
“It’s just amazing. It’s great to know my boys are helping influence and make a difference with other families,” Herbert said. “At the end of the day, it’s good to know that other parents aren’t getting the call that I got. We try to make it fun as they’re learning. We’re teaching them more than just skills driving the car, but teaching them to make good decisions.”
Herbert, a six-time IHRA Top Fuel winner at Bristol Dragway, was the first driver to clock a speed over 300 mph at Thunder Valley. He also had high-speed crashes in his race car including blowing a tire at the end of the track in Topeka, Kansas. But, Herbert’s rocket is designed with a roll cage and other features that street cars aren’t equipped with.
His sons, Jon and James, were ages 17 and 12 when they crashed at 80 mph. Their car struck another vehicle, sending it off the road and leaving it a twisted piece of wreckage.
Each class starts with a video showing their wrecked car and Herbert recounting the tragic day that his life changed in an instance. He went through the emotion of not knowing why it happened, but felt the need to do something so other families didn’t have to experience that pain. It started with him speaking to his sons’ classmates and the program has grown exponentially from there.
Greeneville Pro Stock driver Allen Johnson has been heavily involved in the B.R.A.K.E.S. program at Bristol. Other drag racing champions including Mike Dunn, Antron Brown, Darrell Gwynn and Doug Kalitta have had their children go through the program.
So have NASCAR drivers Michael Waltrip and Ricky Rudd with their children. Randy LaJoie brought his son, current Cup Series racer Corey, to B.R.A.K.E.S. a decade ago. NASCAR legend Bobby Allison had his grandchildren go through the program.
Allison, a longtime friend of Herbert, lost his sons, Clifford and Davey, in racing and helicopter accidents. He and wife, Judy, were among the first to console Herbert after his sons’ accident. The tragedy led Herbert to research teenage fatalities. It started the mission to prevent injuries and save lives by training and educating drivers and their parents.
“One thing that I didn’t know before my boys were in that car crash is that car crashes are the leading cause of death for teenagers,” Herbert said. “Our No. 1 goal is bringing the kids home safe.
“Before COVID, we had 25 different cities where we were doing the program. Now, we’re back up around 20 different cities. Our plans are to get around 10,000 more families trained this year.”
Teens can register for the free classes at: https://putonthebrakes.org/