Former drag racer Doug Herbert was set to test his NHRA Top Fuel car at Phoenix a decade ago and received a phone call that shattered his world. He learned sons Jon and James were in an auto accident attributed to reckless and distracted driving, an accident that proved fatal for both young boys.
Herbert started piecing his life back together by discovering a way to honor his sons while trying to spare other parents the pain of such an incident. He established a 501(c)3 charity to teach defensive driving skills to teens and consulted with the boys’ classmates, who suggested the name B.R.A.K.E.S.. The acronym stands for Be Responsible and Keep Everyone Safe.
The program grew and allowed Herbert to conduct B.R.A.K.E.S. seminars throughout the nation.
Terry Vance, the NHRA Pro Stock Motorcycle pioneer who’ll be one of the celebrated legends this March at the Gatornationals at Gainesville, Fla., sent his children to Herbert’s clinic and was so impressed he donated $1 million to B.R.A.K.E.S. in a starting-line ceremony Saturday during qualifying.
Vance’s sons are among the more than 35,000 teens who have taken the course. Statistics show that B.R.A.K.E.S. graduates are 64 percent less likely to become involved in an auto accident.
“We’re making them safe and more responsible on the roads,” Herbert said. “When Wally Parks started [the NHRA], it was dedicated to safety, taking them off the streets and giving them a safe place to race. And what we do at B.R.A.K.E.S. goes along with that.”
Vance, co-owner of Vance & Hines, said, “When the accident happened with Doug’s kids, I didn’t want to talk to Doug because I felt so bad I was afraid I might start crying in front of him. So time went by and he got his program going. I was so proud of what he had done and how he recovered. It was really more important than racing. It was a testament to who Doug is. So I brought my boys to the program, and it was a grand slam. They loved it.
“I actually brought them back out, and I brought their baseball team in a bus to go through the program, as well,” he said. “It has been a great experience, and all the kids loved it. They learned a lot.
“I learned more about B.R.A.K.E.S. and what they were trying to accomplish. So I wanted to do something bigger. That’s why we’re here today.”
On hand to support Vance and Herbert Saturday were Pro Stock Motorcycle racers Matt Smith, Angie Smith, Angelle Sampey, Steve Johnson, and his own two racers from the Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson team, Andrew Hines and Eddie Krawiec. Also showing solidarity were Jack Beckman and Clay Millican.
— Competition Plus (@competitionplus) January 4, 2019