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For teenagers, obtaining a driver's license is a significant rite of passage, a sign that they're growing up and ready to accept the responsibility of operating a motor vehicle. Unfortunately, this exciting time for teenagers can also be dangerous. According to data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), more than 6,000 teens die each year from injuries resulting from car crashes – making it the number one killer of teens in America. Yet, a recent national survey by Wirthlin Worldwide shows that many people underestimate the challenges novice drivers face. When asked, 56 percent of Americans named drug abuse as the leading health threat teenagers face, with only 13 percent identifying teen driving crashes as the number one threat.

To help raise awareness and fight back against this serious youth health issue, Ford Motor Company, along with the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), launched of Real World Driver: Driving Skills for Life.

Real World Driver is a multi-year, educational campaign aimed at teens, parents and the education community. The program includes a teacher's guide, video and other materials that are being distributed to every public high school in the country (more than 20,000 schools). An interactive Web site -- -- also has been launched to give students and parents more information about driving skills and provide visitors the opportunity to take a quiz online for a chance to win exciting prizes.

Four Critical Driving Skills

To design the program, Ford and GHSA convened a distinguished panel of safety experts that included NHTSA, the International Association of Chiefs of Police Highway Safety Committee and The Transportation Safety Association. According to the Real World Driver Advisory Board, the four key driving skills young drivers should master are: hazard recognition, vehicle handling, space management and speed management.

Hazard Recognition: Recognizing and anticipating hazards, such as distractions and intersections, and dealing with them successfully. Safe techniques for approaching and turning left at intersections are examples of what is addressed.

Vehicle Handling: Learning how to handle different vehicles competently under a range of driving circumstances and maneuvers. Vehicle balance, type and braking are all covered.

Space Management: Maintaining safe spacing with other traffic and managing space in an emergency. This section addresses the importance of positioning your vehicle safely in traffic.

Speed Management: Driving at speeds that are right for conditions and maintaining control in dangerous situations such as skids. Issues addressed are centered on knowing the road, letting others know your intentions and knowing how to react to other drivers' actions.

Ford, GHSA and Car and Driver will take the demonstrations on the road this fall to major cities around the country to ensure that teens nationwide have the opportunity to practice the four critical driving skills first-hand.

Buckle Up

While hands-on, behind-the-wheel training and educational materials are important elements of any safe driving program, Cischke reminds all drivers that safety belts continue to provide the single, most effective protection in any vehicle crash.

Click here for more information on Real World Driver.


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