Road safety tips for young drivers
Young drivers are always facing an uphill struggle. Blamed for everything that goes wrong on the roads, incidents are usually simply the result of inexperience and misjudgement, rather than anything malicious
The invincibility of youth means speeds increase and confidence grows, but it's only when something goes wrong that a young driver tends to realise their shortcomings.
That's where Ford is stepping in, providing additional training for young drivers who have already passed their test. Running for more than 10 years in the US, and proven to have reduced young driver deaths by up to 55% in some states, the programme has now arrived in the UK so DAD.info sent a young driver along to try it out.
The half-day event is split into four sections, with the opening session being about the car itself. Faced with a brand new Fiesta, the participants are quizzed on everything from warning lights to oil filler caps, but there's never of hint of lecture. It's engaging, and surprising for the students to see how much they don't actually know.
Time is also taken to put each student into the cab of a truck, revealing just how poor visibility really is for the driver.
"You always see the stickers on trucks saying leave plenty of room and don't pass on the left, but it's amazing to see how little the drivers can see out of their cab and how far back you need to be to be seen," explained Anthony, a 20-year old university student.
The drivers are let loose in the cars though, with skid control being the most engaging part. Another Fiesta, fitted with special low-friction tyres, pirouettes repeatedly with young drivers at the wheel. It's demonstrating how the stability control systems work, and what they can and can't do, but it does rather look like they're just having fun out there.
Less fun is the braking demo. Everybody should have read the Highway Code, but few will ever remember how long it suggests cars take to stop at different speeds. Even if you did, the figures are estimates at best. Instead Ford puts a young driver in yet another Fiesta and gets them to perform emergency stops at different speeds. The differences in stopping distances are significant, and hammer home the fact that speed can be the difference between life and death.
"I've literally no idea how long the Highway Code says it takes for a car to stop, but it wouldn't mean much anyway," added Anthony, "but seeing the difference in the real world between 30 and 40 miles per hour brought it all to life."
Modern technology has permeated motoring as it has in any other area, and that's causing problems on the road. Distraction is a big cause of accidents, but few think that they're easily distracted, and it's everybody else that has the problem.
Ford proves them wrong with an incredibly simple demonstration. Driving at low speeds around a twisting course made of traffic cones, students are asked to try and take selfies while driving, tune the radio, or even try something as simple as turning on a fog light, all the time while having an in-depth conversation with their instructor.
It only takes a few seconds for cones to start flying, with every single driver losing the ability to drive safely at least once.
"Distracted driving is something I thought I'd cope with," admitted Anthony, "but an unfamiliar car caught me out so a few cones died. The basics of each car are the same but finding the fog light switch was impossible! I'd never thought about spending time familiarising myself with a car before, but it's definitely worth spending 30 seconds on."
Aside from the driving, there are drunk-goggles, reaction games and even a PlayStation with Gran Turismo 6 running, all subtly proving a point and reiterating what's been said and done.
The Driving Skills for Life programme has been pitched well, avoiding the temptation to simply lecture the students and tell them where they're going wrong. Instead it clearly demonstrates where their inexperience shows up most, and discusses what changes can be made to minimise those risks.
It's an engaging as any road safety event could ever be, with most students admitting they learned something from it. Even if only a handful make some changes to their driving or recognise where they lack experience, it'll be considered a success.
The Ford Driving Skills for Life programme is free to join, and there's no cost for the half-day programme, with locations spanning the UK. Participants on this event were also rewarded with a shopping voucher and free entry to the Gaydon Motor Museum.
You can find out more information and sign up yourself at www.forddsfl.co.uk.