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Ford Addresses Distracted Driving with Teen Safe Driving Forum

By: Jeff Youngs, 6/11/2014

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and based on the most recent data published in 2010, the leading cause of death in teenagers is  accidents, accounting for almost half of all deaths in people aged 12 to 19 years.

Within the category of accidents, motor-vehicle fatalities represent nearly 75% of all accidental deaths among this age group, making car crashes the most common cause of death in teenagers. More recently, studies have found that texting while driving has surpassed driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs as the leading cause of deadly accidents, making the issue of young driver distraction a critical one to address.

These are the facts that inspire Ford Motor Company's Driving Skills for Life program, which tours the United States offering hands-on driving clinics designed to teach teenage drivers about and build their skills related to distracted/impaired driving, speed/space management, hazard recognition, and vehicle handling. The program is free, and during the 2014 season, the Driving Skills for Life program plans to visit 40 high schools across America and educate 40,000 teenage drivers.

Recently, Ford held a Driving Skills for Life program at Citi Field in Queens, New York, and hosted a panel discussion to address issues around the increasing problem of distracted driving in teenagers. Entitled "Teen Safe Driving: The Next 10 Years," the panel explored the implications of technology on teen driving trends and how parents can best educate young drivers about the dangers associated with distracted and impaired driving.

According to Ford, the key to keeping teens safe on the road is parental involvement combined with certain types of technology designed to help moms and dads to monitor how their children are using vehicles. Ford's MyKey system allows parents to program settings related to maximum vehicle speed, maximum stereo volume, seat belt usage, and more. Other types of technology from other automakers include parental alerts related to vehicle speed and curfew violations, as well as notifications when a vehicle travels beyond specific geographic boundaries.

Additionally, it is important to remember that teenagers are observing their parents' driving behaviors well in advance of getting a driver's license. Mario Armstrong, a panelist and television host, underscored that last point: "My son recently said, 'Dad, don't answer that,' when the phone rang while I was driving. I thought, 'Wow, he's watching my behaviors.' It's important to never be the type of driver you don't want your child becoming."

In addition to educating teenagers about the dangers associated with distracted driving, the Ford Driving Skills for Life program aims to educate young people about the effects of alcohol or drugs on driving capabilities, an especially important aspect of the program now that marijuana is legal in some states. Teens wear a drunk-driving suit to better understand how alcohol and drugs can impair a driver, and at the event in New York City, state troopers conducted simulated sobriety tests on volunteers wearing the suit.

For parents, education about the dangers of distracted and impaired driving--and the ability to have honest, sometimes uncomfortable discussions with teen drivers--are key to helping our children realize and understand that they are not indestructible. As Armstrong summarized, "Technology is getting smarter and smarter, but there just isn't an app for (keeping kids safe). But there is communication and education."

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