The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimated that distracted driving may contribute up to 80 percent of auto accidents, and nearly 6,000 teens die annually in such accidents. Driving while texting (DWT) has become a major concern especially with teenagers, but there are many other distractions equally as dangerous such as talking on a hand-held phone, talking on the phone using an earpiece, eating or drinking while driving, changing the radio station, reading a map, chatting with a passenger, and the list can go on. Distractions can sharply elevate the risk of an accident, and more so with novice drivers. Teens are more vulnerable to driver distractions because they lack experience behind the wheel and may not understand the risks. It is important for parents to set rules, know where their teens are going and who they will be with, and give reminders of the importance of wearing seatbelts and focusing on the road at all times while driving.
Ford Motor Company recently became the first automaker to endorse a federal ban on manually sending text messages on hand-held devices while driving. Ford is also committed to helping reduce teen auto accidents and fatalities through its Ford Driving Skills for Life teen safety program. The program offers hands-on training in a classroom setting and behind the wheel of specially equipped vehicles that simulate wet or potentially dangerous driving conditions. The online training modules are designed to help teens recognize and avoid driving distractions. There are five different learning units followed by a quiz to test your knowledge, focusing on speed management, space management, vehicle handling, and hazard recognition. Ford also offers hands-on training in which teens are placed on controlled courses to test their concentration. Instructors prompt the drivers to visually and verbally interact with passengers, manually operate the radio, climate controls, and electronic devices such as cell phones and MP3 players. By increasing the distractions, it helps the teen driver recognize and avoid dangerous behaviors. Ford holds several hands-on safety driving events across the United States, and provides free educational materials to high schools allowing instruction of the program in the schools.
The Driving Skills for Life website offers short video spots providing a variety of driving tips to both teens and adults, and feature instructors from the Driving Skills for Life “ride-and drive” events. They teach teens what to do if the passenger-side wheels leave the road, how to recover in a skid, proper sitting for safe driving, how to brake safely, how to anticipate danger, and when it is important to slow down.
“We’re turning to the Web because that’s where teens live, and where they get much of their information. We want the video spots to get teens thinking about safe driving, and we think the tips can be valuable for adults, as well,” says Sue Cischke, Ford Vice President, Environmental and Safety Engineering.
Teens will have the opportunity to complete various e-learning modules, take a safe driving quiz, play safe driving games, and complete a variety of other activities. There are also opportunities to win prizes. Adults can use the site to help their teens, while educators can incorporate the tips into lesson plans for classroom learning.
Although Ford is taking great strides in helping educate teens on the importance of safe driving, the best training is for teens to get behind the wheel with an experienced driver who can share their knowledge first-hand. Don’t forget one of the best things both teens and adults can do to remain safe is to buckle up.
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