With fall season here, and students settling back to the classroom focusing on readin', writin' and 'rithmatic, here's another reminder to also concentrate behind the wheel when driving a car or truck. As part of this week's National Teen Driver Safety Week activities, Ford is expanding Driving Skills for Life, the company's award-winning driver's education program. The program launched in 2003 and has trained about 332,000 young drivers so far.
Nothing is more tragic than when teens strive to excel in school, with eyes on a promising future, only to have their lives ended in a traffic accident. While substance abuse is among the causes of such tragedies, lack of driving experience and carelessness often result in teen deaths. Several of the staffers at AskPatty are prepping their own young drivers for their own learner's permits, so this subject is fresh on our own minds as well.
Statistics show that approximately 4 million new 16-year-old drivers will begin driving this year, but that's just the beginners: In total, there are approximately 21 teenagers in the United States, most of whom drive and are in high school.
A recent Ford-commissioned survey by Harris Interactive Study revealed that 57 percent of parents worry about teens driving while on a cell, and 34 percent of survey teens admitted to talking on their phones while driving. Also 44 percent of teens surveyed own up to speeding; 53 percent of parents worry about their teens driving too fast.
While parents feel their homework demands attention, it's also wise for teens to do some homework and hone their driving skills, so they can supplement their behind-the-wheel experience as well. A valuable learning tool is the Driving Skills for Life web site, www.drivingskillsforlife.com, which offers a wealth of information, particularly in four areas that cause more than 60 percent of teen crashes: Hazard Recognition, Vehicle Handling and Space and Speed Management. Teens also can take a quiz and become eligible for points and prizes.
The Web site also provides valuable information to help reduce many of the factors of teen driving fatalities. For instance, teens should be aware that passengers in a vehicle can distract a driver and endanger the passengers. Approximately six of every 10 teen passenger deaths occur in crashes with a teen driver! It is for this reason that many states prevent new drivers from chauffeuring their peers as part of their staggered licensing programs.
Also, did you know that most nighttime fatal crashes for young drivers occur from 9 p.m. to midnight, so teens should not drive much later than 9! The problem isn't just that driving in the dark requires more skill. Late outings tend to be recreational, and even teens following the rules can be easily distracted or encouraged to take risks. Many states with graduated licensing programs also limit the hours during which new drivers are allowed to be behind the wheel, so if you've got a teenager, you'll want to know about any such limitations.
"Driving Skills for Life isn't just for teens - it's for parents and educators, too," says Jim Graham, community relations manager for Ford Motor Company Fund, the company's philanthropic arm that coordinates the award-winning teen safety program established in 2003 in cooperation with the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA). "We especially encourage educators to download lesson plans from our web site. And all of the information is free."
On top of all this safety education, Ford has recently announced that it will launch a new safety technology called "MyKey" to allow parents to limit the vehicle's top speed and audio volume while their teen is driving. The feature - which encourages safety-belt usage, provides earlier low-fuel warnings, can be programmed to limit the top speed, and to sound chimes at 45, 55, and 65 miles per hour- will be included next year as standard equipment on the 2010 Ford Focus and many other Ford, Lincoln and Mercury models. (Click here to download a more readible version of the informative MyKey PDF below)
If you've got teen drivers, or young teens anticipating getting their permit or driver's license, this program will help you both to be more at ease with this new privilege. Be sure to check it out!
Safe journeys to you and your family!