CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - When drag racing star Doug Herbert lost his sons, Jon and James in a horrific crash, he knew he had to find a way out of his grief to spare others the agony his family felt.
Seventeen-year-old Jon was driving 12-year-old James in January of 2008 when, troopers say, he was speeding on the very curvy Jetton Road.
Investigators believe Jon lost control of the car. His vehicle was a mangled mess after hitting an SUV traveling in the opposite direction. Jon and James died at the scene, just a mile from Doug Herbert’s home.
In the throes of grief, Herbert was shocked when people started presenting him with statistics. The year his boys died, more teens lives ended in car crashes than any other cause of death. Doug knew he had to use his skills as a driver and connections in the automotive world to help others.
That’s when B.R.A.K.E.S. was born. The non-profit has provided the free intensive teen driving course to over 33,000 young people since its inception.
One of those teens was Connor Thomas from Providence Day School in Charlotte.
“The confidence difference is a huge difference. From me not taking the program to me after taking the program - there's a difference in my confidence driving. I know what my car can do, and I know that I'm not going to have to push it to the limits on the road because I've already done that. I already know what the car can do so I'm comfortable with it. That makes me a safer driver,” Thomas told me at the B.R.A.K.E.S. Tenth Anniversary Gala “Havana Nights.”
His movie B.R.A.K.E.S. in Life was featured that night.
The crowd was moved to tears as Thomas captured what this driving program has meant to Doug and his daughter Jessie. Thomas’ movie also gave us a better understanding of who Doug’s sons were through Jessie’s words. Two young men we really wish could be with us today.
“I feel a little guilty. Because this program makes me happy,” Doug said fighting tears. “It makes me feel like we are doing something for Jon and James, so other families don’t have to hurt like we hurt. And we will hurt like this forever. But this helps us save others.”
This year’s fundraiser was filled with leaders of the automotive industry. Thanks to their generosity, B.R.A.K.E.S. will be able to provide an additional one thousand teens with this safe driving program.
To learn more about the B.R.A.K.E.S. program, visit their website here.