Teens can learn safe driving tips at free course in Arcadia this weekend

ARCADIA, Calif. (KABC) -- Texting while driving, skidding on a wet road or driving while impaired are things no driver should be doing, but teenage drivers need to be aware of a sobering stat.

"The number one cause of death for teenagers in the United States and actually in many countries across the world is crashing a car," said Mike Speck, with Ford Driving Skills for Life.

The program started in 2003 and travels the country giving teenagers a hands-on car control experience. This weekend it comes to the parking lot of Santa Anita racetrack in Arcadia.

The half-day courses include exercises in controlling a skid, a demonstration on how tough it is to drive and text and a simulation on what it's like to drive while impaired.

The teens are fitted with special goggles that blur their vision as if they were at or near the legal limit for blood alcohol content.

Over the past 14 years, the organizers have found that many teens resist at first, but later realize the value.

"They probably don't want to be here because their parents forced them to come. By the end of the day, the vast majority of teens realize that we're not talking down to them," Speck noted. "It's just trying to open their eyes."

The best part is that the course is free. And no, they won't try to sell you a Ford while you're here. The program is operated by the Ford Motor Company Fund, a philanthropic arm of Ford Motor Company.

Some teens and their parents might find the thought of skidding around a parking lot a little scary. But this is a controlled situation, where the only thing drivers are ever likely to hit is an orange safety cone.

Parents don't get to just drop the kids off and come back later. They participate too, in a separate training session for good reason.

"We see a lot of adults texting and driving with teens in the car," Speck said.

He said many people assume that texting behind the wheel is just a problem with younger people, but that is not the case. "Anybody that decides to text and drive, or be distracted while driving, is an issue."

So get that teen driver in your family out for the free training this weekend and get some peace of mind.

As an extra reward, they'll get to do some fancy sliding maneuvers in a new Ford Mustang.
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