I’m a woman, so I like to think I can multi-task. But is driving along Sheikh Zayed Road while singing TwinkleTwinkle to a screaming toddler and trying to rescue his favourite toy from behind the passenger seat a good example of this? I admit: I’m as guilty as the next sleep-deprived mother of juggling driving with ‘on the move’ parenting. But, after an afternoon at Dubai Autodrome with the safety instructors from Ford, things are about to change.
My first challenge in this eye opening exercise was to drive the Ford Explorer Sport through a slalom course wearing vision-impairing ‘beer’ goggles, to simulate the feeling of driving while drunk. While on the upside there is no hangover at the end of the course, on a more serious downside I veered massively over to the left, wiped out a row of bright orange cones, and nearly crashed into a huge red STOP sign. And don’t even ask about my attempt to park in a wide open space. It’s entertaining and harmless fun while driving at just 5kmph on an empty race track, but the more sobering message is how dangerous it is to drive while tired or under the influence of drink and drugs.
Once the goggles were off, the next challenge of driving around a course with tight corners and large road signs sounded a breeze. But, when all you can hear is a baby crying relentlessly and your passenger (the Ford instructor) is shoving his mobile phone in front of you, waving a map before your eyes, and screaming out for directions, the heat is on. So much so that I ran over a few cones (again), missed a large STOP sign and turned left instead of right. Once again, after a few cheap laughs at the expense of my terrible driving, this is a serious wake up call – driving while distracted is dangerous. Take your eyes off the road for just a few seconds and the consequences could be life-threatening.
The final test of the day was to take the Ford Mustang for a spin and a lesson in skid control. After being guided through how to catch the slide before you spin out, by steering into the skid, it was my turn behind the wheel – all in safe, low speed conditions. As well as being a bit of fun, this was a great lesson in thinking fast and acting to avoid an accident. It took a few attempts to get it right, and I did step out of the Mustang slightly dazed but much less confused about what to do in a skid situation.
These lessons are not just for mums, far from it. In fact, Ford Middle East has teamed up with the RTA to run the Ford Driving Skills for Life programme in universities across the UAE, teaching students these and many more hands-on safe driving techniques. My advice is to take their advice – because if there’s one thing this ‘multi-tasking’ driver has learned from Ford it’s that you’re never too old, or young, to learn.