Learning curve continues

Courtesy of Courtney Force

Courtney Force encourages high school students to take safe driving seriously.

I've been the spokeswoman for Ford Driving Skills for Life for two years now, and I love being able to represent something so important -- safe driving. Last year I got the opportunity to talk to a group of high school students about the importance of safe driving and showed them cool videos of how we try to keep our Funny Cars as safe as possible with the help of Ford engineers.

Being race car drivers and driving at speeds well over 300 mph, we are very persistent about making sure our cars are as safe as possible, in case there is an accident. Safety is just as important when you’re driving in a normal street car. Car accidents are the No. 1 killer of teenagers in America, according to Ford Driving Skills for Life. The program helps teens learn about safe driving by visiting their website, which is full of tips, videos, games, resources, modules and the importance of eco-driving. They also have ride-and-drive events in which they bring trucks and trailers out to schools across the country and educate teens on the importance of safe driving through their academy.

I was able to take part in the program last year when I got behind the wheel and went through the exercises. This program helps teens gain knowledge and experience in the four primary skills -- hazard recognition, vehicle handling, speed management and space management. I had so much fun going through the program with the rest of the teens, while an instructor taught us the ins and outs of safe driving. This program was not only educational but also just plain fun. They had me drive through a series of cone courses while texting, drive with vision-impaired goggles and drive while the vehicle slides out, as it would in bad weather. I might be a professional driver on the racetrack, but I definitely got a reality check about distractions like texting while driving. It can take only a few seconds but immediately put many people's lives in danger. Teens are inexperienced drivers, so this program helps teach what can happen.

We continue to work on making our Funny Cars as safe as possible. I had contact with the wall this past weekend and can only learn from my experience. The more passes you make, the more knowledge you're gaining. My dad was very encouraging when I was feeling down this past weekend and reminded me that it is only my first year racing one of these 8,000-horsepower cars and that he had plenty of contact with the wall when he started. The only thing we can do is learn from it and be glad that we have made these cars safe so I was able to walk away unharmed. We are definitely making progress but are ready to get our focus back on track and just get ready for next weekend in Reading, Pa.

This race season is my learning season, and I'm definitely learning every time I get in the cockpit of this race car and gaining more experience. The same thing goes for teens who are learning how to drive a normal street car. Limit your distractions, wear your seat belt and do everything you can to practice and gain more knowledge by visiting www.Driving Skills For Life!