Driving skills clinic teaches teens safety behind the wheel

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By Tami Hoey By Tami Hoey

PHOENIX -- Valley schools were closed Tuesday, but hundreds of teens still got some important lessons -- behind the wheel!

Ford Motor Company is hosting a driving skills clinic for 400 Valley teenagers. The clinic was an  opportunity for teen drivers to receive hands-on, advanced driver training from professional race car drivers, courtesy of Ford's Driving Skills for Life program.

Ford Driving Skills for Life is a free, advanced driver training program for teens, which allows them to get professional, hands-on experience on several different courses.

The program is taking place Nov. 11 and 12 at the Phoenix Fire Training Facility on Lower Buckeye Road.

Ford Driving Skills for Life offers skills that are more important than ever, since the leading cause of death among teens remains auto accidents. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that nearly 3,000 teens, ages 15-19, are killed on American roads each year.

The curriculum in the program tackles current trends such as driving selfies, which is becoming a major distraction factor for teens and young adults thanks to examples set by celebrities.

Texting and driving is a huge issue for teens, so the clinic addresses that as well. "We have a texting exercise," says Jim Graham, Manager, Ford Driving Skills for Life. "We let the kids drive through a series of cones without being distracted, and then we let them text. They just can't do two things at once."

Kids also get to try on the Simulated Impairment Driving Suit. The suit mimics physical impairment associated with the effects of consuming alcohol. Developed by the Ford Motor Company and the Meyer-Hentschel Institute in Germany, the suit limits a person's mobility, balance and hearing in addition to restricting vision.

In another part of the course, teens can build their skills in vehicle handling. They get behind the wheel of specially equipped vehicles like the Ford Mustang, which is outfitted with skid plates.

"One of the most important things young people need to learn is how to control a vehicle that might get loose in the back," says Graham. "This is a vehicle that's specially equipped so the back end will slide. We teach them how to control the slide so they don't just panic and slam on their brakes or spin around."

Other areas covered include: driver distraction, speed and space management, and hazard recognition.

If you aren't able to attend an event, there's new online curriculum for teen drivers, parents and educators at drivingskillsforlife.com.

The program is made possible every Fall thanks to Ford Motor Company and local Arizona Ford dealers.

Arizona teens who hold a valid learners permit or drivers license can sign up for one of two free sessions, thanks to a partnership between Ford Motor Company Fund, the Governor's Highway Safety Association, Arizona Ford Dealers and the Arizona Office of Highway Safety. Parents are also encouraged to attend.

WHEN: Tuesday, November 11, 2014 (Veteran's Day holiday - No school)
Session 1: 7:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
Session 2: 1:00 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.

WHERE:Phoenix Fire Training Facility
2425 W. Lower Buckeye Road
Phoenix, AZ 85009

The Ford Driving Skills for Life program was created in 2003 in conjunction with the Governors Highway Safety Association to provide teens with the skills and experience they need to become safer drivers. Vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death among teenagers in the U.S.

Registration is limited and signed consent forms are required. Participants must bring the signed waiver form and the teen's driver's license or permit to the event.

For more information and to register, please visit www.drivingskillsforlife.com.  This website has useful resources for teen drivers, parents and educators.