Free 'Driver Skills For Life' courses teach young drivers much-needed extra skills, and how to share roads with cyclists
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We talk at length about the importance of driver training to reduce the counterintuitively growing road toll — about reaching young drivers before bad habits become ingrained.

Enter Ford Australia, which is expanding its five-year-old subsided driver-training program called Driving Skills for Life.

This free program (it’s all funded by the Blue Oval brand) is focused on “techniques not taught during L-plate instruction… and to teach new drivers how to share the road with other vehicles and cyclists”.

While attaching your brand to a driver up-skilling program has an element of marketing attached, it’s clearly a worthy initiative.

The small-scale half-day courses will this year run in Sydney, Melbourne and Geelong, and expand into new locations such as Adelaide, and regional centres Orange and Newcastle.

L- and P-platers, plus full licence holders, are able to attend, while parents/guardians are encouraged to go and learn alongside participants.

Those taking part will be taught how ABS and stability control work in theory and from behind the wheel in test cars on marked courses with different road surfaces (soapy water on slippery plastic is the most challenging), and be shown the proper driving position and how to improve your vision through corners.

While most of the course is done behind the wheel or under instruction, there are also virtual reality headset activities including one on a bicycle that’s particularly interesting, and the chance to wear Ford’s heavily weighted ‘drunk suit’ to see how much booze really affects your driving.

It’s not about conducting a scare campaign, either. “I don’t want to show gory photos or anything because half of the drivers will think it can never happen to them, and the other half won't drive again!” said chief instructor James Stewart.

Another key plank is teaching young drivers to be more tolerant of, and safe around, cyclists — always a fraught issue. The DSFL course has teamed up with the Melbourne-based Amy Gillett Foundation, “the leading cycling safety organisation in Australia” on what to impart.

“We know from our research that many drivers don’t feel confident driving around cyclists, and that many cyclists are nervous being on the road with vehicles. That’s why it’s so important to include a driver-cyclist safety component in DSFL this year,” said Ford Australia CEO Kay Hart.

Ford discussed research from 1000 surveyed drivers, which found:

  • 95.5 per cent of respondents said they did not understand what the ‘Dutch Reach’ is, a technique in which a driver uses their far hand (left hand for right-hand-drive cars) to open the door, forcing them to look behind for passing cyclists.
  • 53 per cent said they were “not confident sharing the road with cyclists”.
  • 32 per cent said they were not aware of common techniques such as the ‘one metre rule’, where drivers are advised to leave one-metre distance between their vehicle and cyclists (driving 60 km/h or less), while only half (53 per cent) observe it.
  • 68 per cent of cyclists were concerned every time a vehicle passes them while on the road.

How to attend:

Registrations at www.FordDSFL.com.au.

Event Dates:

  • Saturday 21st September – Geelong at Geelong Go Kart Track
  • Sunday 22nd September – Melbourne at Todd Road Go Kart Track
  • Sunday 27th October – Adelaide at Adelaide International Raceway
  • Saturday 9th November – Newcastle at Newcastle Showgrounds
  • Sunday 10th November – Sydney at Sydney Motorsport Park
  • Sunday 24th November – Orange at Orange Go Kart Track