Drag racing champ helps keep teens focused on the road, off their phones

Four-time International Hot Rod Association Top Fuel champion Doug Herbert has enough trophies to fill a warehouse, but it's what he does off the racetrack that has a real impact.

It's called Be Responsible And Keep Everyone Safe, or BRAKES. 

BRAKES isn't about drag racing, although you wouldn't know it from Herbert's involvement. 

"We're 100 percent focused on driving the cars," Herbert said. "We're trying to get teenagers to be 100 percent focused, driving on the street."

BRAKES is a free program that helps teach a new generation how to drive safely and not be distracted and what to do when they come across different hazards and situations on the road.

"It's helping greatly because some of these situations will never happen," said Michael Sadecki, of Lake Orion. "If they do, you know what to do. So you're safe."

Metro Detroit parents were happy to get their soon-to-be licensed drivers out to the the American Center for Mobility Willow Run in Ypsilanti on Thursday morning to learn.

Herbert wants to make a difference in the deadliest statistic for teenagers -- traffic crashes. Herbert knows firsthand the tragedy distracted driving can cause. His 17-year-old and 13-year-old sons were killed in January 2008.

"My older son, John, made a bad decision," Herbert said. "He was driving too fast. He was being reckless and lost control of the car. Both John and James were killed about a half mile from where we live in North Carolina."

It's estimated that 15 teenagers are killed every day in the U.S. 

"I don't want other parents to get that phone call," Herbert said. "That's what we're doing here. We're trying to make a difference."

"I'm learning how to avoid traffic in certain situations, like how to not drive distracted and, if the wheel gets caught off the road, how to fix that in the right way and not cause a tragedy," " Sadecki said.

"You know what? It's good therapy for me," Herbert said. "I think John and James are seeing what we're doing and they're really proud."

The next classes for BRAKES are on Belle Isle in October, and they are full. For more information on BRAKES, to donate or to see class availability, visit the organization's official website here.

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