Ford’s ‘Driving Skills for Life’ course helps DC area teens steer away from danger

The Ford Driving Skills for Life course returned to the D.C. area for the first time in six years this weekend. (WTOP/Valerie Bonk)

Teens and parents take part in the Ford Driving Skills for Life course at a Dulles Airport parking lot. (WTOP/Valerie Bonk)

Vehicle handling was part of the Ford Driving Skills for Life course in Dulles. (WTOP/Valerie Bonk)

Teens and parents wait to take part in the Ford Driving Skills for Life course. (WTOP/Valerie Bonk)


For teenagers and children in the U.S., motor vehicle crashes are the second leading cause of death. This weekend, teens in the D.C. area are getting behind the wheel at a special driving course aimed at preventing those accidents.

“The screeching sound kind of scared me at first,” said Kelly Spencer from Fairfax County.

Spencer said watching her son navigate the Ford Driving Skills for Life course, held at a Dulles Airport parking lot this weekend, was frightening at first, then reassuring.

“All of the instructors have been so incredibly knowledgeable and, honestly, just made me feel so good about him taking this course,” Spencer said. “We’re both going to benefit from this.”

The free event hosted by Ford Motor Company teaches safe and defensive driving skills to teens who have a driving permit or license.

Kelly’s 16-year-old son Hayden said the hands-on experience has really helped.

“If I was to ever slide, I now know how to correct and how to fix that,” Hayden said. “I definitely think it’s going to make me a safer driver.”

It’s the first time in six years that the Ford program has offered in the D.C. area.

Mike Speck, lead facilitator for the event said, “the goal here is that we’re trying to save lives.”

Some of the important skills taught at Saturday’s course include hazard recognition, vehicle handling and how to avoid distracted driving.

“Speed management and space management are difficult things for teen drivers to overcome,” Speck said.

“If we can instill that sense that ‘Hey, look, as a driver I have a responsibility to myself, to the people in the car with me and to the ones around me,’ … if we can make those drivers safer then we’ve accomplished our task,” he said.

Opie Muir from Brunswick, Maryland, said he was nervous at first, but became more confident as the day went on.

“There’s definitely a little bit of anxiousness here, but they’re very nice,” Muir said.” Any practice leads to improvement and the more you get, the better you get.”

Opie’s father David said that he felt like the course helps parents out a lot.

“It’s fun. It’s also nice to not have it in my hands and have people with more experience and training take the lead,” David said.

Valerie Bonk

Valerie Bonk started working at WTOP in 2016 and has lived in Howard County, Maryland, her entire life. She's thrilled to be a reporter for WTOP telling stories on air. She works as both a television and radio reporter in the Maryland and D.C. areas. 

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