Most motoring safety initiatives are like the latest public statements from Malacañang in one ear and out the other, for some reason. But Ford Group Philippines (FGP or Ford) has taken the bullish problem of road safety by the horns and has made progress in the campaign to promote safer motoring with the RIDE (Responsibility In Driver Education) program.

This maiden project under the 2005 Road Safety Program was made possible through an initiative of setting aside P1000 for every Ford and Mazda vehicle sold in the country since March 15, 2005. Since then Ford has teamed up with the Tuason Racing School (TRS) to facilitate the RIDE sessions, specially developed for a Philippine audience after undergoing defensive driving courses with the US National Safety Council. With the RIDE modules in place, the program took to the high school and college classrooms, Ford dealerships and Ford plant in Sta. Rosa (Laguna) to make road safety a must, not an option.

To date, Ford Philippines has successfully completed 12 RIDE sessions in schools and for some of its corporate customers. RIDE has been rolled out to schools such as San Beda College, La Salle Greenhills and the University of Asia and the Pacific. Other recipients of the RIDE were some Ford Fleet customers such as the Philippine Long Distance Telephone Company (PLDT), Bayer Philippines, Astra Zeneca Philippines and Digitel Philippines/Sun Cellular.

But the RIDE Program is not limited to the in-school youth, Ford customers and Ford employees. Recently Ford teamed up with the Tuason Racing School (TRS) to facilitate the media RIDE sessions, which were held for two days (August 9-10, 2005) at the Manila Speedzone at the Ford Bonifacio Global City in Taguig.

The local motoring media were given courses in defensive driving techniques, handling emergency situations, vehicle safety technology and maximizing a vehicle's safety features. The teams were divided into classroom and hands-on sessions, the latter featuring use of the Mazda 3, the Ford Lynx RS, the Mazda Tribute compact SUV and the 2006 Ford Focus Ghia. Hands-on exercises included the correct way to do parallel parking maneuvers, changing a flat tire, aquaplaning and 60-0 kph/80-0 kph braking with the use of anti-lock braking systems. Classroom lectures, on the other hand, focused on driving accident facts, the dangers of drinking and driving road signs, common traffic violations (and their respective fines) and rather disturbing audio-visual presentations on the consequences of not putting on one's seatbelt before the car goes in motion.

The highlight of the day was an Amazing Race-type of competition within a small section of The Fort area, in which participants were lumped in groups of four. The sole purpose was to go through a road safety-oriented course (complete with hands-on road safety requirements in which all four participants must complete) in the shortest possible time using the 2006 Ford Focus Ghia. Obstacles consisted of determining (via plastic cards mounted on a white board) the correct sequence when changing a flat tire, checking the different fluids within the engine bay, presenting the required papers to a police officer (the vehicle's official receipt and certificate of registration and the driver's license) in case of an accident, making a full stop at a stop sign, weaving through orange cones designed to simulate slalom testing and doing a parallel parking maneuver.

Time penalties included knocking off orange cones when executing the slalom and parallel parking maneuvers, not putting on the seatbelt when inside the vehicle, not turning on the hazard lights when parking the vehicle, not turning off the hazard lights when the vehicle is in motion and exceeding the speed limit (50 kph) when driving around the course.

The winning team (with a seven-minute, 16-second time) consisted of Philippine Daily Inquirer's Tessa Salazar, AutoFocus/Motoring Today cameraman Raul Asuncion and C! account managers Veronica Gamboa and Ana Eterno.

After the competition, participants underwent a written quiz and a survey on road safety to test their knowledge, much to the delight of Ford Philippines president Henry Co, who stressed the importance of media spreading the importance of the RIDE program and its eventual goal to reduce road accidents by nearly 50 percent in 2010.

"We recognize the growing concern on road safety and as one of the leading auto manufacturers, we believe that it is our social responsibility to help address this concern. Since we launched the Ford Road Safety program in 2004, we have already initiated several activities to promote road safety in the country. RIDE has been very well received in the schools and companies where we have conducted the sessions. We hope that through these initiatives we are able to do our share in making our roads safer for both motorists and pedestrians," said Mr. Co. - Jude Morte