Parents are cautious when their teens hit the roads as new drivers, and for good reason. In a report published in January, AAA Foundation found that between 1995 and 2004, 15-17-year-olds were at fault for 68 percent of fatal crashes in the United States.
The AAA analysis also reported that those crashes claimed the lives of more than 31,000 people, with about a third being the teen drivers themselves.
"The tragedy of teen driver crashes goes well beyond the teen driver and their teen passengers," said Robert L. Darbelnet, AAA president and CEO. "These crashes also kill pedestrians and people in other vehicles — that’s somebody’s mother, child, brother or grandmother."
In an effort to reduce these accidents, Ford Motor Company is taking a comprehensive approach to teen driver safety — starting with its research. Its significant investment in the VIRtual Test Track EXperiment (VIRTTEX) has been used to test the effect of driver distraction on teens. (Ford is the only automaker in North America with a full-motion driving simulator. Through experiments, Ford engineers discovered that young drivers, while good with working and understanding electronic devices, are unable to multitask behind the wheel. Specifically, teens have a hard time staying attentive while using their cell phones, staying in their lanes and leaving enough distance between vehicles. Those are all examples of how accidents occur.
With the learnings gained from the VIRTTEX experiments, engineers are able to examine driving patterns, create safety features and highlight habits that need to be developed.
Education doesn’t stop there. Ford also developed Driving Skills for Life, www.drivingskillsforlife.com, an educational campaign aimed at teens and parents, along with the driver educational community. This program focuses on four major skills that teen drivers typically lack: hazard recognition, vehicle handling, space management and speed management. In 2005, Driving Skills for Life supplied schools across the country with learning materials for their driver education programs.
And Ford is behind the wheel to protect its customers. Leveraging its research and knowledge, Ford has developed innovative life-saving technologies in its vehicles, such as AdvanceTrac®, to help drivers stay safely on the road. AdvanceTrac uses seven sensors to monitor steering wheel angle, throttle position, wheel speed and other factors every seven milliseconds to determine if the vehicle is following the driver’s intended path. Additionally, the company is working to bring lane-departure warning systems and driver impairment monitors to its vehicles.