It's known as the Distraction Course, a sharp-curved road course lined off in a parking lot at zMax Dragway.
Its goal: Show teenage drivers what can happen if they take their eyes off the road to text, answer a cell phone or change radio stations.
It made matters worse that the passenger in the front seat of each teenager's car Feb. 19 was trying to distract the teenagers.
The passengers were professional race-car drivers teaching safe driving techniques to 72 Concord- and Lake Norman-area teenagers as part of the BRAKES Teen Pro-Active Driving School. It was the first of 10 class dates scheduled at zMax this year.
Doug Herbert, a Top Fuel drag racer in the National Hot Rod Association, started the free, nonprofit program after his sons, Jon, 17, and James, 12, died in a single-car wreck near their home on Jetton Road in Cornelius in January 2008.
A racetrack, not the streets, is the place to drive fast, Herbert told teenagers and parents gathered for the morning session of BRAKES. One-third of the families came from Mooresville; others were from Concord, Huntersville, Statesville, Lincolnton, Charlotte and Mint Hill.
Herbert laid out sobering statistics, including that 6,000 teenagers nationwide die in car wrecks each year. That makes motor vehicle wrecks the leading cause of death among U.S. teenagers.
"To me, that's just unacceptable," Herbert told the crowd. "And (BRAKES) is what we're doing about it."
BRAKES (Be Responsible And Keep Everyone Safe) has trained at least 2,000 teenagers at zMax Dragway and a Pomona, Calif., track near the NHRA's Glendale headquarters. The program expanded this year to Firebird International Raceway in Phoenix. Students register online at www.putonthebrakes.com.
Before they got behind the wheel, the 36 teenagers in the morning session learned safety techniques from BRAKES Director Matt Reilly.
Reilly's mother-in-law, Janet Bush, 56, was struck and killed by a teenage driver as she walked across Morrison Plantation Parkway in Mooresville in 2006. Reilly said he and Herbert broke into tears the day Herbert asked him to help at BRAKES.
Reilly offered numerous safety tips to the teens and their parents, including how to adjust their side view mirrors to eliminate blind spots, how to properly hold the steering wheel, how best to sit and how you should never pass an 18-wheeler on its right.
"The numbers keep happening, and quite frankly, we're sick and tired of it," Reilly told the crowd.
He then joined Doug Van Den Brink, Brandon Sperling, Rick Swarts and other professional drivers as front-seat passengers for the teens on road courses.
One course involved swerving through a series of orange cones to let teens know how their car will feel if they swerve to avoid an animal into the road. Another course had them get the feel of the car when they have to brake suddenly to a complete stop.
Parents watched nearby, including Bill Kurvers of Mooresville.
His daughter, Moriah, 16, hit two cones and veered 70 feet off the Distraction Course when her professional driver successfully distracted her.
"He told me to turn on the radio," the Lake Norman High school sophomore said later. "I had no idea where the button was. I went off the course a little bit."
"A little bit?" her dad asked with a smile.
He also watched as his daughter successfully swerved through the cones at least four times.
"I'm so happy she's doing this," Kurvers said as his daughter drove past him along the course. "God bless her. Look at that smile on her face!"
"There's nothing more important than what we're doing here today," he said.