My Turn: You can help put brakes on teen crashes

  • Posted: Sunday, September 2, 2012 12:01 a.m.
    UPDATED: Sunday, September 2, 2012 2:30 p.m.

By Don Hesprich
S o two more Rowan teens are killed in a car accident, does anyone care enough to do any thing about it? I know one man who does. Actually, I know several men and women who would like nothing better than to help keep kids from dying.
I met Doug Herbert many years ago and became a fan. He was a very talented NHRA top fuel drag racer. He was the kind of guy who brought passion to everything he did. So it hit me hard when I heard that he got a call just like the one the parents of those two sophomores from West Rowan High got.
It was Jan. 28, 2008, and his two sons, Jon 17 and James 12, were lost in the same accident. It would have driven me nuts, and maybe it drove Doug a little nuts. He teamed up with the classmates of Jon and James at South Lake Christian Academy (in Huntersville) and formed the “Put On The B.R.A.K.E.S. (Be Responsible and Keep Everyone Safe)” organization. In the following year, he assembled a team of driving instructors and started putting on free driving schools.
I decided I would get involved in whatever way I could. I asked Matt Reilly, director of B.R.A.K.E.S., to come speak to the Civitan Club of Salisbury. His talk was very informative and convinced me to do more. I went down and spent the afternoon with Matt, Doug, 36 students and 12 driving instructors. Most all of the parents were there, too.
These driving schools are four hours long, and the majority of the students’ time is spent behind the wheel. They learn how and what to do when things don’t go quite right on the road.
Did I mention the schools are free? That’s right, free. When you register, they ask that you write them a check for $75. You get that check back after the school. It just helps people to remember.
The No. 1 cause of injury or death of teenaged drivers in the state of North Carolina is running off the road and then making things worse. B.R.A.K.E.S. teaches drivers how to get back on the road safely if the wheels go off the side of the road.
I think one of the most surprising courses is the “panic stop.” Most all of us (let alone our younger drivers) don’t know what it feels like to hit the brakes and have the ABS (anti-lock braking system) go into effect. Most people instinctively pull their foot off the pedal, the worst thing you can do.
There is much more that you can read about at the B.R.A.K.E.S. website ( What you can’t see is the excitement when the students realize they are being given the tools to survive. To date, B.R.A.K.E.S. has schooled more than 3,000 students in several states. One of those students was almost involved in an accident in front of Doug’s race shop in Concord. That student came into the shop and allowed Doug to interview him on video as he testified that had he not attended the school, he might very well have been in that accident. The video is at Doug Herbert’s facebook page.
I know what I am going to do. I am going to write Doug a check, big as I can. I suggest you do so, too. But more than that, there has been too much young blood spilled in Rowan. Let’s get together and push the local high schools to inform the students about B.R.A.K.E.S. Have Matt or someone come out and talk. We need to Be Responsible and Keep Everyone Safe.
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