Jennifer and her daughter received complimentary travel and accommodations to attend the Ford Driving Skills for Life event in Washington, D.C. on behalf of MomDot.com . All opinions are her own.
Did you know that car crashes are the number one cause of death for teenagers in the United States? That’s a pretty startling statistic, and a mom to a 16 year old who’s just about to get her driver’s license, I find it terrifying! When I heard about the Ford Driving Skills for Life program, I got pretty excited; it would be the perfect opportunity for Angeline to learn from the professionals in a safe, closed course. And who better to teach teenagers how to drive safely than Ford?
About the Ford Driving Skills for Life Program
The Ford Driving Skills for Life program offers a curriculum that teaches teenagers (and their parents) about things like vehicle dynamics, tire dynamics, and situational awareness. We learned how to recognize and void hazards in the road, judge speed and space while driving, how to handle a car that has gone out of control; we even tested our ability to multi-task while driving!
The Ford Driving Skills for Life program utilizes the best driving instructors in the business, many of whom were former race car drivers! Best of all, everything is conducted in a safe and controlled environment, with police and emergency care on site, just in case! But don’t worry, all exercises are done at low speeds in a closed, isolated course without any outside traffic involved. I saw the program as the ultimate driver’s education course!
Consumer Reports’ auto experts say that advanced driver training can help. “Drivers need to learn what to do in an emergency before they’re actually faced with one,” says David Champion, director of Consumer Reports’ Auto Test Center. “Being prepared can be the difference between an accident and a close call.
Ford Driving Skills for Life was created in 2003 by Ford Motor Company Fund, the Governors Highway Safety Association, and a panel of safety experts to teach newly licensed teens the skills for safe driving beyond what they learn in standard driver education programs.
The program focuses on the four key areas that are critical factors in more than 60% of vehicle crashes including:
1) Hazard Recognition
The point of no return
How to scan for trouble
Minimum vision lead time
Approaching and turning left at intersection
2) Vehicle Handling
- Contact road patches
- How acceleration, deceleration, braking and turns affect vehicle balance
- Adjusting to a vehicle’s size and weight
- Conventional braking systems versus anti-lock braking sysyems
- Emergency braking techniques
3) Speed Management
- How to stay in contact with the road
- Driving at a speed that doesn’t endanger or impede others
- How to recover from skids in front- and rear-wheel drive vehicles
- Using proper signals and covering the brake
4) Space Management
- Maintaining space around, ahead of and behind your vehicle
- Learning how to adjust speed
- Maintaining a safe distance between vehicles
- How to avoid being rear-ended and avoiding a head-on crash
Angeline and I made our way through the four different stations and experienced an instructor-led drive-through, then I was given the opportunity to try it myself to put what I learned into practice. While Angeline does not have her license yet, your teens CAN participate in the driving if they have their learner’s permit or full driver’s license.
I was able to get this short video during the Speed Management portion of the event. Our instructor was teaching us how to maintain control of the vehicle, and as you can see, he did it perfectly!
In addition to teaching teens (and their parents) how to drive safely, the instructors also brought up important topics like how important it is to check your tire pressure. If you think about it, our tires are the most used portion of our vehicles – yet they’re the most neglected! Did you know that the appropriate tire pressure number is not only in your owner’s manual, but right on the inside of your driver’s side door? Another important tip is that tires have a life of seven years – even if you don’t drive very often, your tires need to be replaced every seven years because the rubber begins to deteriorate!
I think that one of the most important parts of the event was the field sobriety testing. The sheriff’s office was on site with us and went through a few examples of field sobriety tests that they require possible drunk drivers to perform. Using special goggles that replicate the distorted vision and equilibrium of drunkenness, they had a few of the teenagers go through the tests. I have to tell you, it was really an eye opening experience! The kids could barely walk straight, were tipping over – I have a feeling those teens will think twice about drinking and driving after seeing how difficult it is to operate normally while impaired!
The Ford Driving Skills for Life program is FREE, and anyone with a valid driver’s license can register for their events. You can find a list of events on the Ford Driving Skills for Life website.