Hundreds of newly licensed drivers in the Halifax area got a stark reality check about what to do, and what not to do, behind the wheel.

Hazard recognition and vehicle handling are just two of the topics being covered at the Ford Driving Skills for Life program.

“There’s a higher fatality rate amongst youth drivers, and the reason for that is because of inexperience and poor decision making,” says Dave Drimmie, program manager of Ford Driving Skills for Life.

Participants take a hands on-approach to learning the dangers of distracted driving while on a closed course in Shearwater, N.S.

It’s an opportunity for 300 young and newly licensed drivers to learn a variety of skills that will hopefully keep them safe behind the wheel.

“I actually just started driving, so this is kind of a good course to learn some new habits,” says Madeline Hiltz.

Police say programs like this are important in sending a message to young drivers before they adopt bad habits behind the wheel.

“We want to try and curb any bad behaviours and any bad decisions people might make at a young age,” says Nova Scotia RCMP Constable Chad Morrison. “So the sooner we can educate people about the risks of impaired driving, the better.”

With prom just around the corner, a focus was put on teaching young drivers about impaired driving. One of the ways to do that was to simulate the experience of being impaired behind the wheel with a pair of special goggles.

“Basically, what they do is mimic impairment and then we show the new drivers what type of impairment they have when they’re in those type of situations,” says Caroline Hughes of Ford Canada. “Hopefully we’ll never see them in those situations.”

Some of the participants say the program was truly an eye-opening experience.

“Having the glasses on, you kind of think you know where everything is, so it’s hard to orientate yourself,” says Madeline Hiltz. “Trying to figure out where the lines are, where the cones are, because you kind of think you know where you are and what you’re doing,”

RCMP also stress the importance of making sure people don’t get behind the wheel while high.

“Drugs are always an issue, have always been and continue to be an issue” adds Cst. Chad Morrison. “So even though cannabis is now legal, it is certainly a concern and still an offence to be impaired by it while you’re driving, so we’re always trying to get that message across.”

The course continues Sunday at Shearwater.

With files from CTV Atlantic’s Natasha Pace.