Ford wants you to know what it’s like so you don’t get behind the wheel impaired.
How do you know what drunk or impaired driving is like with out actually getting behind the wheel when you’re drunk or impaired? And how do you know when your judgement is hampered by drugs or alcohol?
To better understand, and to help drivers understand, Ford created simulation suits that mimic the effects of alcohol and drugs, then built a Driving Skills For Life traveling roadshow to help drivers understand the effects on their bodies and reaction times impacted by drugs or alcohol.
Now in its 13th year, the Ford Driving Skills For Life clinics are geared for newly licensed drivers and their families, but obviously anyone can benefit from seeing what it would be like to be impaired as a driver under the effects of alcohol. In the United States, 10% of high school students 16 years and older admit to drinking and driving and about 25% of fatal crashes with teen drivers involved alcohol in 2011. As a parent of a child nearing licensing age, those are scary statistics.
Experience speaks louder than words
We know we shouldn’t drive drunk, but would you know what it is like to be impaired? The Ford Drunk Driving Suit is designed to mimic the effects alcohol may have on a driver. Feeling the effects of impairment is a lot more effective than having someone tell you not to drink and drive. Ford has also recently added a Drugged Driving Suit to show the dangerous effects of taking various drugs, too.
So, what is a drunk driving suit?
More than 10,000 people died in alcohol-impaired driving crashes in 2012—about one every 51 minutes. When you see something like the Drunk Driving Suit in effect, it’s easy to see just how quickly your judgment and mobility becomes impaired when under the influence of alcohol.
The suit, which consists of bandages, weights, earmuffs and glasses to restrict your movements as if you were impaired by alcohol, shows the dangerous effects of driving while under the influence of alcohol and how quickly your reflexes become slowed. Earmuffs impair your hearing to delay your reaction times while neck bandages restrict your head movement. Vision impairment glasses produce ghost images and create tunnel vision. Elbow and knee bandages slow your movement while wrist weights affect your balance. Ankle weights affect your balance, especially when worn on the limb opposite the wrist weights. With the suit on, you walk around like the Stay-Puff marshmallow man from the Ghostbusters movie.
Drugged driving: Just as dangerous. Or more
Last year, 9.9 million people reported driving under the influence of drugs. With Ford’s addition of the Drugged Suit, Driving Skills for Life participants can see the simulated dangers of taking drugs such as cannabis and cocaine. This suit is designed to show you the dangerous effects of driving while under the influence of drugs and how quickly your reflexes become slowed and impaired.
Similar to the Drunk Driving Suit, the Drugged Driving Suit has bandages, weights, headphones and glasses to restrict your movements as if you were impaired by a slew of drugs. Headphones play background noise to confuse and distract you while neck bandages restrict your head movement. Vision impairment glasses produce blurred vision and flashing lights and create tunnel vision. Elbow and knee bandages show your movement while wrist weights affect your balance and slow your reaction time. Ankle weights affect your balance and a tremor generator makes your hands shake.
Drunk, pregnant and elderly: Simulation suits help Ford understand all sorts of drivers
At a recent Traveling Mom retreat, Ford introduced our group to all of its experiential suits. We were able to see a Third Age Suit that illustrates the effects of aging and a Pregnancy Suit that mimics the effects of driving with a baby on the way. The Third Age and Pregnancy empathy suits are used to assist Ford’s engineers with vehicle design. All of these suits are great tools to bring the reality of restricted and impaired driving to life. By the end of 2016, Ford hopes to reach more than 1 million people in 34 countries by bringing this program to new drivers.
Disclosure: I was a guest of Traveling Mom for the presentation sponsored by Ford; any opinions expressed here are my own.
Jana Seitzer is a mom to four kids (including twins), owner of a marketing/communications and graphic designer firm, and freelance photographer. She runs on coffee, good food, wine, and life. Recently relocated to Oregon from the East Coast, she loves to travel both with her family and on her own. She’s always ready for the next adventure.