A couple of weeks ago, Ford Motor Company invited me to Washington D.C. for an up close look at their Driving Skills for Life program.
The latent teenage part of me did an immediate eye roll at the thought of it. The adult and sensible me gave my inner teenager the evil side-eye and said, “We’re going. You freakin’ need this.”
And so it was, and so I went.
As someone with a very reckless and irresponsible teen driving history, I was extremely curious to see if a program like this could make a difference in the mindset and behavior of teenagers behind the wheel.
Yes, yes, yes.
I’m not just blowing smoke either… I saw it, I heard it, I drove it and I felt it.
Automobile accidents are the number one killer of American teens, and crash rates are highest within the first few hundred miles of driving.
This isn’t a program with graphic reenactments of what can happen if…. this is teens actually getting behind the wheel to develop real-time decision making skills in speed management, space management, vehicle handling and hazard recognition.
We practiced rear skids from both the right and left sides. It’s amazing how much control you actually have as a driver. When you’re paying attention, you feel the car and sense what’s happening.
What makes you a good driver? What you think about.
Did you know that the nervousness of new drivers actually makes them better drivers? As time goes on, they get bored so they listen to the radio, talk to friends and use their cell phones. (Distractions.)
We drove a course where a new distraction was presented to us in every lap, and I’m pretty sure we “crashed” with each distraction. Also, Jyl got scolded for hooking the wheel <— dangerous. It prevents you from reacting quickly enough in emergency situations.
You know what else is dangerous? The 10 and 2 hand position that was drilled into so many of us. It needs to be 9 and 3 now because of airbag deployment. I had no idea!
My favorite takeaway of the day: Look where you want the car to go.
If I had to choose one message that stuck with me most strongly, this is it. Whether you realize it or not, where your eyes go, the car will follow, so you have to train yourself to look where you want to drive.
It’s not easy because we’re gawkers by nature, but that’s exactly why disabled vehicles on the roadside are hit so frequently. Drivers look at them and the car follows. It’s called target fixation.
Nothing I can write here can fully capture the impact of experiencing the program for yourself. It’s completely free, and you and your teen will walk away as much better drivers.
In honor of Teen Driver Safety Week (October 20-26) I want to encourage you to visit www.drivingskillsforlife.com and look for a program location near you.
Could you have benefited from this program as a teenager? Do you know a teenager now who should take the program? It’s FREE!