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Free driver education program aims to help teens and parents this weekend

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Teens face many challenges when they start driving, and some parents might be less-than-keen on hopping in the passenger seat alone with their fresh-faced chauffeur.

“Ford Driving Skills for Life” aims to ease teens and parents when it comes to Cardinal Stadium this weekend. The free program connects new drivers with instructors for hands-on lessons to help build confidence behind the wheel.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, novice teen drivers are twice as likely to be in a fatal crash than adults. Nolan Katerberg, the program’s director with Ford, said they teach drivers to avoid many of the leading contributors to accidents.

“We give teens an experience behind the wheel in four critical areas that are responsible for 60% of vehicle crashes: vehicle handling, speeding, spacing and recognizing hazards,” Katerberg said.

The four-hour program provides a certificate upon completion, which Katerberg said some insurance companies offer discounts for.

16-year-old Sam Cox got his driver's permit earlier this week. He typically drives on short trips to school or football practice with his mom.

“I have a hard time remembering to hit the turn signal and use my lights correctly, so she helps me with that,” Cox said. “Sometimes she’ll lift the blinker for me and stuff.”

Cox has yet to drive more than 20 minutes at a time, which limits the scope of his practice. There’s still a few areas he’d like to focus on as he gets more comfortable in the driver’s seat.

“Space management, for sure — keeping a safety cushion between cars,” Cox said. “Parking is very hard when you get in tight spaces.”

Ford’s program invites parents to ride with their teens during their lesson. Cox said this might benefit both parents and teens.

“I know a few adults that aren’t very good at driving, I think that it could also benefit them by giving them advice and finding better ways that they can drive,” Cox said. “I think it could benefit [teen drivers] because you have both a professional and your parents to give you advice.”

Participants mustregister online before midnight Friday.

Michael is a senior studying journalism and political science at Western Kentucky University and a news reporter with WFPL and KyCIR.