The only requirements to take part are a driving licence and an age between 18 and 24, and you don't need to own a Ford, you just need to sign up at www.conducetuvida.es. The site provides access to online training for anyone who visits the site, whether they are registered or not.
These courses are aimed at combating road accidents, which are a major cause of death in this age group. The program has different activities, in which young people learn how to detect risks at the wheel, how to manage speed and distance, among other topics. This is basic training, with less theory or practice than in safe or sports driving courses. They last half a day.
This program also focuses on the dangers of distractions at the wheel, such as the use of mobile phones, sending text messages or taking selfies at the wheel, as well as working on raising awareness of the dangers of drugs and alcohol while driving. According to Jesús Alonso, CEO of Ford Spain, this type of initiative reaches young people more effectively than traditional formulas.
The course training covers four key areas that have been identified as factors related to many fatal accidents that occur on our roads. You learn about:
- Hazard recognition
- Vehicle handling
- Speed and space management
The trainees are divided into small groups of twenty people who are led by an instructor and rotate through the different stations until they receive a certificate of attendance. At the first station they receive an informative talk on the technical characteristics and safety systems of a car, as well as its correct use. The car used for this session is the new Ford Mustang, in its four-cylinder convertible version, and painted in a striking yellow. Perfect for attracting the attention of those present.
The next stations are more practical and more fun. One of them is an emergency braking test with a truck on the side, so that you get a good understanding of blind spots and the safest way to overtake. The automatic emergency braking system (Active City Stop) is also tested to prevent collisions, and the students test the effectiveness of this type of system with their eyes closed. The Active City Stop works when the vehicle is driven below 15 km/h. If the speed is between 15 and 30 km/h, the impact is not avoided, but its intensity and effects are reduced.
Next to this station is an activity that measures reaction times. From a standstill, the car is accelerated and emergency braking is performed when it reaches a marked point on the track. At the end of the turn, a similar activity is found, with the exception that the emergency braking is done while changing support, as the brakes have to be applied while changing direction. The instructor arbitrarily indicates the left or right turn.
Another test consists of trying a suit that simulates the effect of being drunk, with weights on the limbs and limited movement, as it has weights on the arms and glasses that simulate double vision (Boozebusters) and show flashes of lights as if it were a disco. It's impossible to concentrate like that. With all this equipment, two tests are carried out.
The first one is to shoot a ball, which for some people is a real pain, and in most cases you miss the target. The second test is more difficult. You have to drive through a circuit marked out by cones under the effects of glasses, or trying to operate a mobile phone. The aim is to make the students aware of the seriousness of driving under the influence of alcohol or using a mobile phone, they usually do the exercise very slowly and occasionally throw a cone.
However, the most interesting test of the event is to control a skid. For this test they use a pair of Ford Fiesta's fitted with Easydrift rigid plastic rear axle covers (we saw their effectiveness on the Nissan Leaf), so the drift losses are easy to achieve at really low speeds, and the oversteer comes quickly. Young apprentices, at first, overdo it with the throttle and end the manoeuvre in spins, although over time they get the drifting mastered by countersteering. The wheels screech and people enjoy both watching and experiencing it in their own flesh.
It's certainly a great initiative by Ford, because with it many young drivers improve their driving skills and become more cautious on the road. This is not a marketing manoeuvre, nor is it a way of selling cars, it is a form of corporate social responsibility.
Students are followed up months after completing the courses.
Ford has been running courses of this type for years in the United States, and the manufacturer's concern for the behaviour of youngsters has been reflected in the "MyKey" smart keys. With this system, parents can hand over their children's cars with more peace of mind, with speed limiters, the inability to disable traction control, or limiting the volume of the stereo, among other options. Let's keep in mind that in the USA it is legal to drive from the age of 16.
Young drivers, who are still baking their licenses, are still in time to adopt good driving habits, and they are also in time to correct some habits that will be very difficult to eradicate later on. In the absence of legal requirements that include this training in the conventional driving school, this type of initiative is welcome. More manufacturers should be encouraged to carry them out.