Driving under the influence of drugs like marijuana is dangerous and potentially deadly. In 2016, Ford will be introducing its Drugged Driving Suit in its Driving Skills for Life program to help inexperienced and teenage drivers learn exactly how harmful it is to get behind the wheel while under the influence.
The impact that Ford’s Drunk Driving Suit has had with teenagers has been so powerful that the automaker came up with a drug suit. The suit, which uses weights and goggles, simulates to the drivers what it feels like to drive impaired. The drug suit will be at the 18 to 20 Driving Skills for Life locations scattered throughout the United States in 2016. To learn more about the program and the locations of the events, go to www.drivingskillsforlife.com.
“It opens their eyes that it does affect them this way and it does impair you,” said Kyle Green, coordinator for Ford’s Driving Skills for Life in a telephone interview. “We get a lot of teens who tell us after the program, ‘Wow, this is eye-opening and I will never get behind the wheel impaired or get in the vehicle with somebody who is impaired.’
“We always see an increase at our website after we have been in the city. We have a pledge, and they sign that pledge that they won’t drive distracted, they won’t drive impaired and they essentially promise to drive safely.”
Unfortunately, drug use remains a problem. A release by Ford in November stated that in 2014, 9.9 million people reported driving under the influence of drugs.
Getting into the Drugged Driving Suit lets the participants know how foolish it is to get behind the wheel after taking drugs.
Some of the elements of the suit is similar to the Drunk Driving Suit, like the ankle and wrist weights and knee and elbow pads.
The goggles do the same as they do in the drunk suit. They will blur the vision. But there is a difference. The goggles for the Drugged Driving Suit will also have blinking and different color lights that basically simulate tunnel vision as well as create a snow or starry effect that some drugs cause with peripheral vision.
In addition, the Drugged Driving Suit will have headphones that play random sounds. All this is meant to distract the driver and prevent that person from focusing on one single thing.
The final new component, Green said, is something they call a tremor generator. It is a glove that goes on the hand of the person that is wearing the suit and it has a dial attached to it that will cause the hand to shake.
“Some drugs, including marijuana, will cause a person to have that shaken effect that they can’t control and they may not even notice it is happening as they are impaired by the drug,” Green said.
Green has worn the Drugged Driving Suit and knows first-hand how difficult it is to operate a car in one.
“It is surprising how much it does actually impair you,” Green said. “We are simulating certain effects that certain drugs have. I am completely sober in my mind. I know exactly what is going on and what the suit is going to do to me. I put it on and it still has that effect. Some of my motor skills are distracted by the light and sounds. My reactions are slowed by the weights that are put on. My balance is thrown off.
“Even though I know, and the teens know when they try on the suit, that we are simulating these things, they still don’t have the control they think they have. That is the key message, if you use these drugs and get behind the wheel, no matter how in control you think you are, you are actually not. You are impaired.”
The hope, Green said, is after wearing a Drugged Driving Suit, the participants are more equipped to know driving impaired or getting into a car with an impaired driver is wrong.
“We hope the first decision is to not use these drugs, and that includes alcohol,” Green said. “We want to educate them first-hand that here are the possible things that can happen. It could be that one time you injure yourself or someone else or worse. We really want to get into their heads that these aren’t safe choices.”