What's the number one killer of teenagers? You might be surprised to hear it's not drugs, guns, or alcohol. It's vehicle fatalities. One car manufacturer that is making an effort to combat this problem is Ford with it's Driving Skills for Life (DSFL) program. With DSFL, Ford aims to educate new drivers about safe driving principles. “We want to get the numbers down” says Jim Graham, Manager of DSFL.
DSFL events, which are held around the country, have overwhelming demand. The events put teenagers behind the wheel with a professional race car driver to learn emergency maneuvers and how to handle dangerous road conditions and situations. The hands-on instruction teaches the four key principles of DSFL: hazard recognition, speed management, space management, and vehicle handling. You would think that teenagers would be excited at the opportunity to get into a car with a race car driver. To some people, like a particular writer, it would be awesome to do this. “At first they don't want to go.” says Graham but, “Once they get into the car they want to do it again. We use young teachers that are considered cool and that the kids respond well too.” Not only do teenagers love DSFL but parents have positive experiences as well. “Parents get in the cars with teens. For the most part they have not had professional driving safety training either. They learn a lot as well. Parents love the program.”
The program has saved lives in Illinois. Outside Peoria 15 teenagers died in 1 year period. DSFL went in to help address this issue. They worked with the state and community and thus far there have been no new fatalities in the county. They are now operating in the whole state and now there is a 50% reduction of teenage vehicle fatalities in the state of Illinois. Great work!
DSFL also has help from celebrities to get the word out. Kate Voegele, a musician and singer, talks with teenagers about safe driving habits through DSFL programs. Colin Braun, a NASCAR driver, and Toby Keith, a country musician, have also contributed. Braun spreads the message at tracks and through his social media network. Keith made a Public Service Announcement (PSA) “No text message is worth your life” for DSFL. The newest celebrity addition to the DSFL arsenal is Courtney Force, drag racing champion, and daughter of legendary drag racer John Force. Courtney will be speaking with teenagers about safe driving habits around the country.
Ford not only aims to have DSFL events to teach teenagers and parents about driving, but to bring updated information right to you with their website. “Learning to drive successfully is a life long learning experience.” says Graham. This is reflected in the vast content on the website which includes a safe driving simulator, educational materials, tips, videos, etc. There are even downloadable school programs for teachers. It's an all around resource for updated information regarding safe driving and how to develop better habits.
Driving Skills for Life is fully funded by Ford Motor Company. The company even developed the program and will continue with it for a long time to come, as the number of newly licensed drivers grows every year. In short, DSFL is a great service to the community that is saving lives.