Ford Program Helps Teens Learn Driving Skills for Life


If you’re over 18 in California, you don’t need to take a driver’s training course before getting your driver’s license. You can make an appointment, take the driving test, and if you pass, you’re on the road. Anyone can pass the driving test, and the nerve-wracking element from my test at age 16 – parallel parking – is no longer required. With more California kids delaying getting a driver’s license until 18, we have more kids on the road without crucial training. While the training helps heaps, being a teenager hurts. Teenagers are more likely to use poor judgement, more likely to become distracted while driving, and have limited experience driving, which sadly contributes to car crashes being the No. 1 cause of death of teenagers. Computer-driven cars sound like a good thing right now.

Ford is actively trying to reduce teen car crashes using an award-winning comprehensive program for teens to help train them how to react in emergency situations. Best of all, it’s free. FREE!

Ford’s Driving Skills for Life has an online interactive program for everyone, and a hands on program that travels around the globe to give teens direct experience that they need to be better drivers (also, free). For parents, your child learns potentially life saving skills and leaves with a certificate that some insurance companies will honor with a discount. For teens, you get to spend a few hours being training by top precision driving instructors. When I was a teen, several male classmates boasted about taking performance driving classes at Sears Point Raceway with the Bob Bondurant School, and guess what? Many of the Ford instructors are Bondurant instructors, too. Boom! I got those same great lessons for free!

Ford Driving Skills for Life covers hazard recognition, vehicle handling (braking, stop times, etc.), distractions, and impaired driving. Lucky enough to try out the program recently in Dulles, Virginia, we heard from law enforcement officials about drunk or impaired driving (impaired because heavy swigs of cough syrup or some prescription medications can be equally hazardous as drinking or drugs). A few brave teens put on special fatal vision goggles intended to demonstrate visual impairment when drunk, then they tried to take a standard field sobriety test. Spoiler alert: they all failed. The officers didn’t use scare tactics when talking about what they’ve seen or how they determine if a driver is impaired. It was very matter of fact. My 10-year-old watched intently and later told me that she doesn’t think she’ll every drive impaired. I told her that generally no one thinks they’re too impaired to drive, and as the officers said, the fatal vision goggles can’t impair your judgement like alcohol does, making you think you’re okay to drive.

Tips from the program:

Don’t brake! When encountering obstacles or a skid, people have a natural inclination to hit the brakes hard, but that can dangerously shift the weight in the car, making the situation worse. As the instructors showed, often taking your foot off the gas is better than braking. Taking your foot off the gas shifts the weight in a car forward slightly and allows for agility, while slamming on the brakes sharply throws the weight to the front. An off balance car can flip, can get out of control, and as seen in many car crashes, can involve other cars in an accident.

Look where you want to go. It’s one we all know, but don’t do. Sure we look ahead, but then glance off to the side, maybe at another car or maybe off at the side of the road, and guess what? Our car starts drifting that way too. It’s not a coincidence.

It’s all about training. Good driving skills, like laying off the brake, looking where you want to go, or handling a car in a slide, become second nature with practice. Keep at it and it will become habit.

Your phone is not worth your life. It takes four seconds to drive the length of a football field at 55 mph and six seconds on average to send a text. Looking down at a phone or at the radio for a few seconds can be very costly.

For parents: you are modeling good driving behavior. We all put on seat belts, right? Now we need to show our kids that we don’t pick up our phone while we drive. Just like that time when they were little and used a bad word you may have let slip a few times, your kids are watching how you drive and will copy that, too.

How can you participate? The online Academy is available at the Ford Driving Skills for Life website, as are announcements for their next hands-on learning locations. The program is international with workshops in other countries, too. Next up in the U.S. is Arizona in early November.

My daughter and I were invited guests of Ford to take part in the Ford Driving Skills for Life program. Not only did I walk away with new skills, but my daughter was able to observe positive lessons well before the pressure of having to drive herself. There was no talk about the cars – this was not a car sales pitch – but my daughter was overjoyed to get a chance to ride in a new Mustang. Thank you to Ford for this great experience. 

Photo courtesy of Ford

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