Ford Australia wants to drive the road toll down

6 October 2017
, CarsGuide

Think you know how to hold a steering wheel properly? Do you know the correct way to sit when you drive? Reckon you could hit the brakes hard at 60km/h and swerve to avoid a broken-down car? You’ll learn how to do these things at the Ford Driving Skills for Life course, and it could save your life.

The Ford Driving Skills for Life program is a course aimed at young people and is designed to arm them with the know-how that just passing a driver’s licence test doesn’t offer.

Sure, cars are getting safer and come loaded with equipment such as ABS, traction and stability control plus advanced safety tech such as AEB and lane keeping assistance, but the reality is the road toll is going up, and 2017 will go down as having the highest number of fatalities on the road in five years.

What’s also seriously concerning is that the road toll for indigenous communities is five times that of the rest of the Australian population.

Now its third year, the 2017 course kicks off in Darwin on Saturday October 7 before travelling to Melbourne, Sydney, Coffs Harbour and Wodonga.

I’ve done half a dozen or so driving courses during my career but this is the first time I’ve taken part in the Ford Driving Skills For life program. It is essentially a compacted version of those I’d been to in the past and just covers the more crucial components. Things like how to hold a steering wheel (hand at 9 and 3 if you didn’t know) and ABS braking.

Anti-lock braking systems (ABS) features on all new cars sold in Australia. ABS is so important because it slows the rotation of the car’s wheels down rather than causing them to suddenly jam, leading to a slide, which will take away your ability to steer the car.

The pulsing sensation that comes up through the brake pedal can be alarming if you’ve never experienced it.

ABS pulses the brakes on and off allowing the driver to steer while slowing the car to a stop – most people don’t know this and they haven’t experience it.

As with other driving courses this one first had us accelerating to 50km/h and then braking hard in a straight line to demonstrate how ABS works and feels. The pulsing sensation that comes up through the brake pedal can be alarming if you’ve never experienced it.

Next, we took ABS training to another level – the emergency lane change. This meant hurtling along at 60km/h before hitting the brakes and steering into an another lane made from traffic cones.

The idea is to simulate a situation where you need to brake and swerve to avoid colliding with a car stopped in front of you. It’s a manoeuvre that seems hard but is easy once you’ve practiced it a few times.

That’s precisely the point of courses like this - to ensure that if you have to do it for real, it won’t be the first time you’ve done it.

While the Ford Driving Skills for Life course only runs for a limited time each year – it’s on annually and I’d advise all young people to sign up for it when comes to town. Alternatively, there are driver training courses which run permanently in all major capital cities.

Have you benefited from a skills-focused driving program? Tell us in the comments below.