In their continued efforts to further empower women, Ford Motor Company and Jeddah-based Effat University this week complete the inaugural session of Ford Driving Skills for Life for Her, a special variation of Ford’s globally renowned and award-winning safe driving programme for teens and new drivers, Driving Skills for Life. The programme – specially designed to accommodate Saudi female students embarking on their journey to acquire a driver’s licence – made its global debut out of the Kingdom this week, coinciding with International Women’s Day, with more than 250 female students participating.
Ford Driving Skills for Life for Her marks the second initiative the company has launched in Saudi Arabia aimed at empowering women and giving them the skills they need to embark on their journey with confidence. Last year, Ford Fund – the philanthropic arm of Ford Motor Company – debuted its Henry Ford Entrepreneurship Academy in the Middle East, also at Effat University, providing 50 Saudi female entrepreneurs with the tools and knowledge needed to sustain their businesses.
"Providing access to opportunities for people to reach their full potential is core to our mission and Ford’s goal of becoming the world’s most trusted mobility company," said Jim Vella, president, Ford Fund.
While visiting the Kingdom specifically to mark this momentous week, Vella added: "The fact that the program takes place around International Women’s Day, a global day celebrating the social, economic and cultural achievements of women, is no coincidence. We are thrilled to be part of this historical milestone as we bring Ford Driving Skills for Life for Her to Saudi Arabia, to help young female drivers feel safe and confident behind the wheel for the first time, and we look forward to welcoming a new generation of women to the driver’s seat."
Dr. Haifa Jamalallail, president of Effat University, said: "The wheels of change are constantly moving forward, and finally Saudi Arabia has caught up with the rest of the world with regard to women driving. Statistics show that women are generally safer and more defensive drivers than men.
"At Effat University, we are determined that this becomes the case also here," Jamalallail continued. "We want women to be behind the wheel, and so we are looking forward to working with all elements of society to improve the safety of all citizens on the road. The Ford Driving Skills for Life program is a step in this direction."
Held between March 5-8, Ford Driving Skills for Life for Her is training more than 250 eager Effat University students, incorporating vital skills necessary for new drivers, tips from highly skilled experts, and a deep understanding of safe driving practices, which is of paramount importance for new drivers as they take to the roads for the first time.
The different modules of this new customized introductory program have been created with the future first-time drivers in the Kingdom in mind.
The sessions include:
- Learning About Your Vehicle – where students are taught the fundamentals of preparing to drive, such as the importance of adjusting seating position, checking mirrors, and placing hands at the correct point on the steering wheel
- Braking – which allows students the learning opportunity to safely control the car from being in motion, bringing it to a complete stop, preparing these new drivers to take to the road with confidence
- Driver distraction – stressing the importance of staying focused on the road at all times, highlighting through practical, hands-on experience the dangers of driving distracted. In Saudi Arabia alone, close to 7,500 road deaths in 2017* have been attributed the use of mobile phones while driving.
During the program, female students also had the chance to wear specially-designed "impaired vision goggles" – which mimic the effect of tiredness or drowsiness.
Shams Hakim, a Business HR student at Effat University who participated in the program commented: "I’ve always been a passenger in the car and can’t wait to get behind the wheel! As well as being excited, I have had some apprehension about what is actually involved in driving. Ford Driving Skills for Life for Her has given me the confidence and education I need for the journey that lies ahead to obtain my license."
More than 9,000 people were killed in car accidents in Saudi Arabia in 2016, mainly due to speeding – an average of over 25 per day – a figure sure to cause concern for new drivers and their families. With Driving Skills for Life, Ford aims to instill safe driving practices early on with younger drivers, male or female.
Ford also intends to make the new Driving Skills for Life for Her an on-going program for the Kingdom’s female drivers, with phase two coming later this year to Effat University, and expanding to other institutions across the Kingdom in the future.
A signature program of the Ford Fund, Driving Skills for Life is an international initiative for road safety created in cooperation with the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) and a panel of safety experts. The award-winning program captures newly licensed drivers’ interest with free, hands-on ride-and-drive courses that pair new drivers with professional driving instructors and focus on the issues and obstacles that cause crashes, including impaired and distracted driving.
Now in its 15th year, Ford Driving Skills for Life has provided free training to more than one million newly-licensed drivers in more than 40 countries worldwide. In total, Ford has invested more than $50 million in DSFL initiatives globally as part of its long-standing commitment to promoting safety on the road.
Since its Middle East launch in 2013, more than 3,600 students have participated in Ford’s Driving Skills for Life program, with sessions in three different cities across Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates last year alone.