Ford Driving Skills For Life | Teen Driving Program | #FordDSFL

Ford Driving Skills For Life | Teen Safe Driving

Disclosure: My husband and son attended the Ford Driving Skills for Life program in Washington D.C. as guests of Ford. All opinions are our own.

My son just turned 16 in March of this year. Handing over a set of keys to your child for the first time … knowing they were headed out in a vehicle by themselves …

T E R R I F Y I N G.

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We have undergone a few steps to monitor his driving, including installing a camera in his car that only records when it senses an unsafe activity, but knowing that his first winter driving was steadily approaching gave me night terrors. A camera will only catch and report the act after the fact … it can’t teach him how to recover from skidding out or how to avoid hazards in the road. If the predictions are true, we are in for one heck of a winter snow wise. Heck, I won’t leave my house if heavy snow is forecasted. Serious night terrors for this mom.

When Ford emailed me to ask if I would like to attend the Ford Driving Skills for Life (DSFL) program when it stopped in Washington DC, I didn’t hesitate with a reply.

Vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death among teens. Analysis of NHTSA’s traffic data shows that in 2011 there were about 2,300 traffic fatalities involving teens between the ages 15 – 19. The Ford Driving Skills for Life program is a traveling (free) program that teaches advanced driving skills to new drivers to help them gain critical experience in difficult situations. As part of the program, my husband and son learned hands on from experienced professional drivers how to deal with distraction, impairment, speed, vehicle handling and hazards in a safe and controlled environment.


One of the stations gave the kids a little walk through to familiarize themselves with the cars. Although we’ve tried to show our son around a little bit, I’m not sure how much of it stuck with him so this little lesson was a welcome one for me.


As a parent of a driving teen, I often worry about distractions. His cell phone beeps often with text messages, he likes his music a tad loud and on occasion I will allow him to drive with a friend in the car. The distracted driving portion (hopefully) showed him how any of these activities distracts you from hidden dangers ahead. One tiny 2 second look down could be a life changer!

Below is a short clip of him texting and driving (beware… the music is a little loud. They were trying to distract him).

They also got a lesson on avoiding hazards and speed.

At this station they focused on:

  Hazard Recognition

  • The point of no return
  • How to scan for trouble
  • Minimizing distractions
  • Safety zones
  • Minimum vision lead time
  • Approaching and turning left at intersection

At this station Josh was asked to floor the gas and drive towards three traffic lights, all red. As he approached, one would turn green. This was simulating a vehicle pulling out in front of you, the green light being your “way out”. It’s human nature to hit the breaks and then try to avoid… what they were teaching the kids was to avoid and then hit the breaks for more control of the vehicle.

Josh was also asked to floor the gas and go until instructed to hit the breaks. He was told to “try to break the brake peddle in half with your foot”. This gives the kids the opportunity to feel what anti-lock breaks feels like so that when/if this were to ever happen they would know that it was the anti-lock brakes performing properly and not freak out.

Below is a short video of Josh avoiding and then breaking.

At this next station they focused on:

   Vehicle Handling

  • Contact road patches
  • How acceleration, deceleration, braking and turns affect vehicle balance
  • Adjusting to a vehicle’s size and weight
  • Conventional braking systems versus anti-lock braking sysyems
  • Emergency braking techniques

One of my bigger fears is Josh hitting a patch of ice and not knowing how to handle the car… this was put to the test during vehicle handling. This is a fear of mine, because … well, I have never experienced it! I am so incredibly grateful that my 16 year old feels confident that he will know what to do if/when he hydroplanes or hits a patch of ice and loses control for a second.

Below is a video of Josh experiencing vehicle handling (in a Mustang I might add).

Drinking and driving. Every parent thinks “My kid would never do that.” and I am one of those parents. BUT … I am glad that Josh got to experience “beer goggles”. Simply put, they distort your vision in such a way as to “impair” you like you were drunk. Josh was asked to put them on, and then walk this line (mock field sobriety test).

Check out the video.

This amazing traveling program is put on by Ford and is free to all participants. They learn from a highly trained professional at their side in brand new Ford vehicles. The skills focused on during this program are fundamental skills that will help them stay safe both offensively and defensively. They are also skills that most “driving schools” do not give them hands on experience doing. Personally I do not recall my driving instructor telling me to punch it so they could teach me to avoid hazards.

During a recent discussion with Josh he told me that he felt not only safer, but more confident behind the wheel. He learned a few lessons and is a better driver for it. During the process Josh got to drive a Focus, Fusion and a Mustang. Seriously, what teenager (or parent for that matter) doesn’t want to drive a brand new Mustang?

I am so grateful that my husband and son were given this opportunity to not only bond on a quick trip together, but that my son has these new fundamental driving skills that will stick with him for life.

Thank you Ford!


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  1. Julie Wood says

    It is so important that teens learn that how they drive and what they do behind the wheel is so important. The number one killer of teens is distracted driving. My town had a terrible thing happen, the teen is 16 and he was speeding at freeway speeds around a corner, and two girls that were 15 died from him losing control of the car. We need to teach our teens that speeding also kills! I think your son will be okay, but I do understand the anxiety with having a teen driver.

  2. Carmen Van Deursen says

    Congratulations Josh! Be safe!

  3. courtney b says

    it took me 3 times to pass my test, couldn’t do that stupid parallel parking !:)

  4. Debi says

    My boys are 15 and 16. It is crazy to think of them behind the wheel. My son gets distracted so easy. I really need all the safety tips I can find to drill into them.

  5. Jenny says

    Great post and so important!! My kids are still 7 years away from driving and I’m already worried about it!

    Love that first picture! 🙂

  6. First of all, I cannot believe your son is driving already. They grow up way to fast. I am so glad he got this experience and kudos to Ford for making this program happen.

  7. Mitch says

    Great info, I always need safe driving reminders!

  8. Alex T. says

    Oh my gosh! My daughter turned 16 over the summer and although she is a super great driver, she scares the you know what out of me!! I try not to make her more nervous lol but I am a nervous wreck!!

  9. Todd Lovessweeps says

    My daughter is going to be 16 in December – so not looking forward to teaching her to drive – thanks for the tip

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