Photo courtesy of Ford.

Photo courtesy of Ford.

A Ford initiative to bolster the driving skills of teenage drivers is getting ready to kick off its 13-city tour this month with several new virtual reality tools, according to the company.

Now in its 15th year, Ford Driving Skills for Life is estimated to reach 5,500 students who will learn critical driving skills in over 60 hands-on sessions.

Teen drivers have a crash rate three times higher than drivers aged 20 and older per mile, according to the Governors Highway Safety Association and national partner of the Ford Driving Skills for Life tour.

The 2018 U.S. Ford Driving Skills for Life tour kicks off this month in New Orleans at NOLA Motorsports Park and runs through the summer. Teen students will learn important skills including vehicle handling, hazard recognition, speed and space management, as well as how to manage distraction and impairment. The free, hands-on driving courses pair newly licensed drivers with professional driving instructors, focusing on issues that cause crashes.

This year also marks the introduction of a new pilot program for young drivers in rural communities in North Carolina and South Carolina, which will be implemented in partnership with Vidant Healthcare.

Ford Driving Skills for Life is debuting a variety of virtual reality innovations in the U.S. including a program that teaches best practices for maneuvering though roundabouts as well as a distracted driving tool that allows students to experience difficult and unsafe driving situations like managing text messages, navigation systems and passenger distractions while operating a vehicle.

The program will also unveil a new hangover suit, primarily for adult drivers. Users who don the suit will experience the challenges of driving while recovering from excessive alcohol consumption.

Other highlights of the 2018 Ford Driving Skills for Life program include:

  • A refresh of "The Academy," a web-based curriculum at; new training will be available for teens and parents, as well as a refresher for nontraditional adult rivers.
  • A 15-year celebration to acknowledge key Driving Skills for Life partners.
  • An expanded international presence featuring programing in Cambodia, Czech Republic and Morocco. Women in Saudi Arabia will receive training for the first time.

A signature program of the Ford Motor Company, Driving Skills for Life has provided complimentary driver training to more than 1 million new drivers in 40 countries. To date, the auto manufacturer has committed more than $50 million to this award-winning safety initiative.