Ford brings teen driving course to the Valley

PHOENIX - For any parent, it's difficult to watch kids grow up and letting go of the steering wheel is a part of that process.

But, knowing the dangers of the road, parents want all young drivers to have every tool possible to stay safe. 

QUIZ: Can you pass Arizona's written driver's license test? 

That's why Ford and their Driving Skills for Life program have been coming to the Valley every year for 10 years.

This time around, they will spend five days in Phoenix teaching more than 1,000 students an advanced four-hour course that goes far beyond basic driver's education.

ABC15 rode along with a few of the students.

"I've wanted to drive since I was little," said 15-year-old Emily Wilham. "So, I'm...determined to be good at it!"

Emily is just two weeks away from her 16th birthday and a driver's license. She said her parents signed her up for this program.

"Beyond driver's education training, the program focuses on the issues and obstacles drivers face that cause crashes," Ford explained in a press release. "Including vehicle handling, hazard recognition, speed and space management, and distracted and impaired driving. A key part of the instruction focuses on training newly licensed drivers to make better driving decisions and features Ford's drugged and drunk driving suits to warn about the dangers of impaired and distracted driving."

Putting on that gear was eye-opening for Emily.

"You kind of got to get used to it, but you can't and you feel like you're cross-eyed, which is really weird!' she said.

RELATED: More women getting behind the wheel for trucking, construction jobs 

But, it is not just teaching them to not drive impaired, it also teaches them an awareness of other drivers.

"There's people distracted all the time; there might be other people impaired," said Program Manager Nolan Katerberg. "So, you have to be a defensive driver out there." 

Katerberg said they focus on a handful of categories when creating hands-on courses, including the impaired driving. But, also going further with vehicle handling, hazard recognition, and speed/space management.

"It gives you a knowledge of if this ever happens to you, you know how to avoid it," Emily described.

"Learning the right skill-sets when they're young and hopefully they'll continue to hone their skills in the rest of their life," Katerberg said. "That's what's going to make a difference out there."  

The course is in the Valley through next week, however, spots to sign up are already full.

RELATED: Apps to keep your teens safe on the road

There is a waitlist that you can register for, as well as an online course to go over with your teen.

Katerberg said that if you do sign up for the waitlist, you will be the first one to be notified when they come back next year.

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