Yesterday I was invited to spend the day at Ford’s factory in Pretoria to learn more about their Driving Skills For Life programme.
I came away with some very useful tips and suggestions and some fascinating insights into how Ford designs their cars!
Did you know that Ford uses an “Empathy Belly“, a “fat suit” and another gadget that “mimics” arthritis or severe joint movement restriction when they design their cars, to ensure that just about anyone can comfortably sit in, enter, exit and manipulate their cars!
The focus of the day I spent at Ford was on pregnancy and child safety in cars and I was in the company of several journos from (amongst others) Mamas en Papas magazine, Living & Loving, Real Magazine and Child magazine. We were informed, as they split us into teams of 4, that we best pay attention as there would be a test later… What!??! I decided to listen closely but took the hint at a test with a pinch of salt… 😛 Turned out there really was a test! As a team we answered questions about what we’d learned like what was the best rev count to gear up in a petrol car and where is the best place for a child to sit in a car.
We saw a couple of videos during a short presentation that showed quite graphically how serious the consequences can be when you don’t wear a seatbelt! I always wear mine, and when my son was a little boy we turned it into a competition to see who could get theirs on first and for him it became a habit, but many people don’t wear them and many people don’t buckle their children in!
What was a real eye-opener was having a ride in the “skid monster”, which demonstrated rather frighteningly- using a doll- what happens to a baby who is not strapped in when a car spins at a mere 30km an hour! At one point the doll- which started out sitting in but not strapped into a baby seat in the back seat- was on the dashboard in front of the driver and after a few more spins (with different occupants as we all had a turn) the doll flew out of the driver side window!
We were shown some practical tips on how to handle a hijacking with kids in the car, and something they suggested which I never thought of was actually having a plan of action and practicing it with your children- like they do at school with evacuation drills!
Their research has shown that the best place for a single child is behind the passenger seat, and if you have two children put the older child behind the driver and the younger in the passenger seat. Teach the older one to unbuckle the younger child- only when you tell them to with a special instruction– and then the children must climb through and follow mom or dad out the driver’s door.
And we got to wear beer goggles! Actual goggles that simulate what you see when you’ve had 4 beers and another pair that mimics 8 beers. We had a short course to drive in a golf cart- wearing the goggles! The first thing I thought when I put the first pair on (for 4 beers) was “…uh-oh, this is familiar…” and I was quite stunned! You have no peripheral vision, you have no depth perception and your aim is completely off! Just wearing the goggles makes you feel a little wobbly! They handed us the keys to the golf cart by holding them out or dropping them and we had to grab them or pick them up, and then we had to put them in the ignition and turn the cart on. You could see who had had a little practice driving under the influence because some of us checked which side of the key was the smooth top and then braced our wrists in the “dash” to get the key in the ignition, which we first traced with a finger… Shocking…
It was certainly a rude awakening. For me the quote of the day was when the two ladies in the golf cart had the goggles on, the “less drunk” person directing the driver (who was wearing the 8 beer goggles) and she shouted “STOP! OMG STOP!” It was just so apt!
What Ford is planning to do is roll out their DSFL programme to high schools so that kids who are learning to drive can experience the goggles and the “skid monster” and actually see for themselves what is in their textbooks and what people are always telling them.
And there was a test! LOL! My team and I passed luckily, and then whilst we enjoyed a delectable cold lunch they handed out a few prizes to those who were quick enough to answer some questions.