Ford is reaching out to parents and teens on a topic very important to parents—teen driving safety. This is a top priority for Mom and Dad, as this chart from the Marketing to Mom’s Coalition State of the American Mom Research shows.
Parents have reason to be concerned. Teen drivers are at high risk for accidents, and the CDC reports that traffic fatalities are the number one killer of American teens of driving age. Teens usually over-estimate their own driving skills. When I have interviewed newly-licensed teen drivers and asked them to rate their driving skills in all conditions, including night and bad weather, the teens typically give themselves a 9 or 10 out of 10.
Seeing an opportunity to connect with parents and teen drivers, Ford offers hands-on driving clinics with specific activities targeting two major issues: distracted driving and inexperience. The Ford Driving Skills for Life clinics partner with high schools and in 2013 will reach about 40,000 teen drivers.
The clinics keep teens interested, as I can personally attest. I attended a clinic, along with teen drivers and other parents on a rainy, grey day in Dulles, Virginia on Oct. 11th. Despite the weather, we all found the experience very engaging and interesting. Teens believe the clinic to be authentic, as the lessons are taught by professional racecar and stunt drivers, along with police officers.
The first station our group visited was Driver Distraction. We were asked to don night goggles and also goggles that simulate the vision blurriness from driving under the influence. Despite their youth and fitness, none of the athletic teenagers in my group could complete any of the tasks while wearing these goggles. Beyond just walking a straight line, participants got behind the wheel with a professional driver and attempted to follow a slalom driving course—the program emphasizes its hands-on approach.. More than a few traffic cones were hit (we heard the crunch) as our Mustang’s teen driver, his dad and I all attempted to navigate the cones successfully with coaching from our trainer.
Another very realistic scenario included a distracted driving simulation: we were asked to send a text message while driving a slalom course as well as to adjust the radio dial. Again, the traffic cone casualties were notable as compared to driving the same circuit without distraction.
The highest speed experience involved flooring the accelerator to about 45mph, and then slamming on the brakes to feel the anti-lock braking system engage, witnessing how long it takes to bring the car to a stop. Most inexperienced drivers have never felt the ABS system engage, and this familiarizes them with the sensation prior to a dangerous situation.
Ford offers this program in 39 states and 862 school districts, along with 13 international markets. Parents of teens, like me, are concerned with teen driver safety and welcome the valuable, hands-on experiences that this program provides. By making the program fun and engaging, it also appeals to teen drivers. Ford is building goodwill for its brand and giving parents and teen drivers alike positive experiences of driving Ford vehicles.