I first met Doug Herbert this past February at the annual Dad 2.0 Summit (full-disclosure, I work for Dad 2.0) in Washington D.C.’s famed Mandarin Oriental Hotel. I knew immediately that he was a very nice man. I could feel it the moment that I shook his hand, and then, once I heard his story (it being the reason that we were meeting in the first place), I was more than convinced of his unselfish kindness—the sort of inspiring goodness that warrants the jumping of salutations all the way up to hug level.
Herbert’s story, at least as it relates to this article, has two major parts: the amazing and important work that he is doing with his non-profit Be Responsible and Keep Everyone Safe (B.R.A.K.E.S.), established “to prevent injuries and save lives by training and educating teenage drivers and their parents about the importance of safe and responsible driving,” and also his inspiration for it. To suggest that the inspiration portion of his story is a tough one is putting it far too lightly. The inspiration is painful, and it is awful.
In 2008 Herbert lost his two young sons, Jon and James, in a terrible car accident. In a moment he found himself living every parents’ nightmare, and that, as you can surely imagine, is a nightmare that lasts forever. Shortly after the accident, in the midst of incredible grief, he founded B.R.A.K.E.S. in hopes that other parents would never know the heartache that he felt. That he feels.
The B.R.A.K.E.S. program offers a Teen Pro-Active Driving Course to help young drivers become better prepared for the realities of the road, rather than lulled into an illusion of comfort by the milder situations covered in most motor vehicle exams. During the event they work on focus and concentration, maintaining and regaining control in adverse weather and situations, and through it all there is a very clear emphasis on the consequences of irresponsible driving.
B.R.A.K.E.S. is sponsored by Kia (Kia also sponsored the aforementioned Dad 2.0, and will be sponsors of the Mom 2.0 Summit later this week), who supply the official vehicles for the training, as well as a car that is basically dismantled by emergency services while walking participants through the particulars of an accident.
It is powerful stuff.
My boys are still too young to think about driving themselves, and yet, it is never too early to understand the benefits of safety and the responsibility thereof, hence our visiting a B.R.A.K.E.S. event last month. Granted, the boys were unable to participate in the driving aspect, but one does not need to drive a car to appreciate the magnitude of the risks involved. That is, B.R.A.K.E.S. isn’t designed to scare one away from driving a car, but rather to better appreciate the power of the privilege.
If you are the parent of a teenage driver, I cannot recommend the program enough. B.R.A.K.E.S. is doing important, necessary work, and kudos to Kia for helping to make that happen.
The B.R.A.K.E.S. Teen Pro-Active Driving Course is offered for free (there is a $99 refundable deposit), despite the fact that it generally costs about $300 per student to stage the event. One weekend of B.R.A.K.E.S. trains approximately 140 students, with 17,000 teenagers and their parents having attended thus far. Please contact B.R.A.K.E.S. for more information and/or to request an event in your area.
And when you meet Doug Herbert, thank him. Don’t forget the hug.
Whit Honea is the co-founder of Dads 4 Change, the Social Media Director and Community Manager of Dad 2.0 Summit as well as a Senior Account Executive at the conference’s parent company: XY Media Group. Deemed “the activist dad” by UpWorthy (and one of the “funniest dads on Twitter” by Mashable), he is a regular contributor to The Modern Dads Podcast and the author of The Parents’ Phrase Book—a family guide to empathy.