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Encouraging Safer Driving

Driver safety goes way beyond the construction and safety features of a vehicle. We also encourage safer behavior through a range of driver education and awareness programs, including our global Ford Driving Skills for Life initiative.

Our Flagship Program: Ford Driving Skills for Life

Worldwide research shows that car crashes are the leading cause of death among young people. In Europe alone, more than 3,600 are killed in accidents each year, and two-thirds of these are drivers (EU, 2016). Anything we can do to reduce this number is time, money and effort well spent.

Our global Ford Driving Skills for Life (Ford DSFL) program was established 15 years ago by Ford Fund, in partnership with the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) and a panel of experts. It gives newly qualified drivers the skills they need to drive safely and make good decisions behind the wheel in real-world situations. Training on speed and space awareness, distracted driving, vehicle handling and the simulated effects of drugs and alcohol are delivered – free of charge – through hands-on courses, in the classroom and via an interactive training center (“The Academy”) on the Ford DSFL website.

The program is expanding geographically and as it does, we adapt it to suit different regions. In North America and Europe, Ford DSFL programs are more focused on helping teenagers, the primary age group of first-time drivers. For example, our three-day DSFL course in London, held in November 2017, trained 470 young drivers, our highest participation rate yet. However, in many Asian, Middle Eastern and African markets, our novice driver participants cover a wider range of ages, as use of motor vehicles becomes more prevalent.

DSFL in Numbers

More than 1.03 million young people and new drivers received free training since 2003

40,000 participants worldwide in 2017, with 32,000 taking part in hands-on training and 8,000 online

Currently active in 41 countries, with first-time programs in Hungary, Norway and Zambia

Over $55 million invested since 2003

Expanding to include Cambodia, Czech Republic and Morocco, and female drivers in Saudi Arabia, in 2018

Addressing Driver Distraction

We conduct a significant amount of research into driver distraction, both on our own and with universities and organizations such as the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers (Auto Alliance), to help make driving safer for everyone. The results gleaned from these studies has informed the development of a number of driver-assist technologies.

Fatigue and Tiredness 

Truck drivers often drive thousands of miles every year, making their profession tiring – and therefore potentially dangerous. In Brazil, more than 11 percent of truck drivers have been involved in a recent collision (Brazilian National Transport Confederation), so in 2017 our local Heavy Truck division developed innovative technology to help drivers recognize the signs of fatigue and act to stay safe.

The Safe Cap looks like a normal baseball cap, but it comes equipped with sensors that interpret the wearer’s head movements. If they are tired or sleepy behind the wheel, an alert is issued through vibration, sound and light flashes. The prototype Safe Cap was tested for eight months in real driving conditions, and we hope that patenting and certification will follow.

Driving Under the Influence 

In Europe, alcohol is a factor in about 17 percent of road accident fatalities. In the United States, alcohol-impaired driving is involved in about 28 percent of traffic fatalities. Additionally, a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) study found that about 20 percent of drivers surveyed tested positive for potentially impairing drugs.

To educate teens and new adult drivers about the dangers of driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs, participants at some of our Ford DSFL driving clinics can try on our “Drink Driving Suits” and “Drug Driving Suits.” These help them appreciate how being impaired can slow movement, reduce reaction times, and affect vision and coordination.

Ford DSFL courses in Europe also offer students the chance to experience the “Hangover Suit,” which recreates the classic “morning after the night before” symptoms such as a throbbing head, dizziness, and feeling tired and weak. The 37-pound suit, created by Ford Europe, shows that even hungover driving can be as lethal as drunk driving.

Cell Phones 

Cell phone misuse is one of the biggest killers on British roads. Despite new laws and tougher penalties, over half of drivers in the U.K. still admit to using their phone while driving, while 37 percent have their phone in view (Ford and Brake).

To help change driver behavior, we launched a campaign with road safety charity Brake that banishes handsets to the glove box, which we renamed the “phone box.” Prompting drivers to put their phone out of sight, we created a #MyNewPhonebox sticker, which we gave out at our annual DSFL event in London in November 2017.

Our Ford MyKey® system also helps parents encourage their teenagers to drive more safely. Available on millions of Ford and Lincoln vehicles, the programmable key can redirect incoming phone calls and text messages. It can also:

  • Limit the vehicle’s top speed
  • Activate alarms until front occupants have fastened their safety belts
  • Limit the volume on the audio system
  • Prevent safety and driver assist systems from being disabled

 Case Study

Giving Young Drivers a Virtual Reality Check

In 2017, our work on driver distraction expanded into a collaboration with Google to produce Ford Reality Check, a virtual reality (VR) app that brings to life the potentially fatal consequences of distracted driving.

The first-of-its-kind experience, created with VR studio Happy Finish, uses Google Daydream VR to cast the participant as a distracted driver picking up friends on the way to a party. Instant messages, phone calls and chatty passengers all compete for attention, sparking a series of near misses before a final, fatal distraction.

The interruptions are based upon the most prevalent and dangerous distractions for this age group, including smartphones and passengers. The app tracks the time the driver takes their eyes off the road, displaying the total at the end.

In initial tests, 90 percent of app users said they would change their driving behavior.

Virtual reality is the ideal medium to highlight the dangers of distracted driving to young motorists and, by providing a chilling glimpse of how easily a crash could actually happen, we hope to encourage them to drive more safely. This age group is more likely to engage with VR, and studies suggest immersive experiences in virtual worlds can positively influence behaviors in the real world.”

Jim Graham,Manager, Ford Driving Skills for Life