The North American International Auto Show in Detroit is, naturally, all about the cars and all about the technology that goes into them. From an environmental standpoint, most manufacturers were able to show off at least one alternative-fuel vehicle, be it a production or prototype electric, fuel cell, or plug-in hybrid vehicle.
However, looking beyond the cars themselves, there’s other interesting stuff to discover. From a corporate social responsibility (CSR) point of view, Ford* gave space on the floor to promote its teen safe-driving program, which has been in place through the Ford Motor Co. Fund since 2003. The program, operated in conjunction with the Governors Highway Safety Association, provides skills training to newly-licensed drivers -- a class of driver particularly at risk.
Ford cites the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to emphasize how important it is to make sure young drivers learn to drive safely. NHTSA says vehicle crashes constitute the leading cause of death among teenagers in America, with nearly 3,000 killed in vehicle accidents annually.
The program, Ford Driving Skills For Life, helps young drivers improve skills in four key areas which are critical factors in more than 60 percent of vehicle crashes, including hazard recognition, vehicle handling, speed management and space management. Training is provided either through hands-on events that are conducted under the program or via interactive, Web-based resources.
An important feature of the program is highlighting the hazards of driving while impaired by either alcohol or drugs. And in its hands-on sessions with young drivers, Ford devised a way to simulate how the senses are dulled by driving under the influence. The company made the simulated experience available to visitors at the Detroit show, which I can attest is quite effective.
The picture at the top of this article shows me “under the simulated influence of alcohol,” outfitted with weights on one leg and opposite arm to create imbalance; braces on my knees and around my neck to restrict normal movement; goggles which create disconcerting double vision; and headphones to create hearing impairment. I was then asked to walk the green line, and figured I’d be able to override these distractions. Instead, I found it absolutely impossible to walk normally; certainly I would have failed a sobriety check. The simulation was scientifically designed to reflect as accurately as possible how the body is impaired by specific classes of substances, and not just knock you off balance by any means.
The program encourages the involvement of parents in the process of skills training, recognizing that parents are important role models for their kids, and, importantly, parents' behavior behind the wheel is often emulated by teen drivers.
In 2015, Ford Driving Skills For Life was conducted in 29 countries, providing hands-on training to almost 25,000 teens and parents around the world. Additionally, over 300,000 people engaged with the program through one of 15 global websites. In the U.S., the program held hands-on training clinics in 23 cities, training more than 6,400 teens and parents behind the wheel.
*Ford Motor Co. paid for my travel and accommodations at a three-day NAIAS Digital Summit. I was not compensated in any other manner for my time. My opinions posted here are my own.
Photo courtesy of the author
Phil Covington holds an MBA in Sustainable Management from Presidio Graduate School. In the past, he spent 16 years in the freight transportation and logistics industry. Today, Phil's writing focuses on transportation, forestry, technology and matters of sustainability in business.