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Ford marks half decade of safe driving program

Driving Skills for Life program teaches young drivers to share road with cyclists

18 Sep 2019

FORD Australia has launched its fifth annual Driving Skills for Life (DSFL) program which aims to teach young drivers good on-road habits, with the 2019 version focusing on how to best share the road with cyclists.


Since partnering up with the Amy Gillett Foundation last year, the program has begun to emphasise the relationship between driver and cyclists, teaching young drivers new tips on how to best stay safe on the road.


The Amy Gillett foundation is one of the country’s pre-eminent cycling safety organisations, established after Ms Gillet, a member of the Australian women’s cycling team, was killed by a driver in Germany in 2015.


In a survey of 1000 drivers conducted by Ford, 53 per cent of respondents said they are not confident sharing the roads with cyclists, while 68 per cent of surveyed cyclists said they are concerned every time a vehicle passes them on the road.


Furthermore, 32 per cent are not aware of common techniques for sharing the road, such as the ‘one-metre rule’ that dictates you should leave cyclists with a metre of space when travelling up to 60km/h, and only 53 per cent observe the rule.


As such, the DSFL program will introduce new training techniques in 2019, such as teaching the ‘Dutch reach’, which encourages drivers to open their door with their left hand, which in turn automatically turn their body, allowing them to more comprehensively check for passing cyclists.


Along with the new techniques, the program teaches other important skills for young drivers such as experiencing the capabilities of ABS braking and traction control systems through controlled test conditions, inner-city cycling simulations with virtual reality goggles, and using Ford’s impairment suit that simulates the effects of alcohol on the body.


The DSFL program will be rolled out in six locations across Australia, the same number as last year, however new locations in regional Australia have been added to bring the program to new audiences.


Occurring between September 21 and November 24, the program will return to Melbourne and Sydney, and will be expanded to include Geelong, Adelaide, Newcastle and Orange, of which the last three are brand new locations.


Brisbane, Wollongong, Ballarat and Toowoomba are the cities from last year that will miss out in 2019.


While in its fifth year in Australia, the DSFL program has been ongoing for decades in other markets, including Europe, Asia and the US, and is funded by Ford’s philanthropic arm based in Detroit.


Ford Australia president and CEO Kay Hart said the safety of its owners was of utmost importance to the company, making DSFL a worthwhile project.


“For Ford, safety is such an important thing for is, be it technology in vehicles, but really safety of passengers, so for us this is a very clear extension of that in terms of what we stand for and what we believe is important,” she said.


“We stand to have safer people, safer roads – and that’s good for everyone. But it’s really that core tenet of safety that’s really important for us.”


Amy Gillett Foundation acting CEO Marilyn Johnson said the program was a great way to teach young drivers skills around interacting with cyclists that are not taught when gaining one’s licence.


“A major challenge is that useful and practical skills have not been included in driver training for generations of drivers on our roads,” she said.


“We need to help people learn ways to share our roads so that everyone can be safe riding a bike and improve the way we move, especially around our cities.


“We’re delighted to partner with Ford on this program to fill in the gaps in new driver training and help keep new drivers and vulnerable road users safe.”


DSFL is a voluntary program that is free to attend for young drivers and has attracted about 1000 participants across its previous four years of operation.

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