To help prevent drugged driving, Ford Motor Co. has teamed with German scientists to create a unique suit that makes the wearer feel like he or she is on drugs. Ford will use the suit in its award-winning beginner driving education course — Ford Driving Skills for Life — which has given free classes to more than half a million people around the world since it began 11 years ago.
James Graham, global program manager for Ford Driving Skills for Life, said:
Driving after taking illegal drugs can have potentially fatal consequences for the driver, their passengers, and other road users. We have already seen first-hand the eye-opening effect that our Drunk Driving Suit has had on those who wear it, and are confident that our new Drugged Driving Suit will have a similar impact.
Driving Under the Influence
The 2013 National Survey on Drug Use and Health found that about 9.9 million people ages 12 and older reported driving under the influence of illegal drugs. In addition, a meta-analysis of several studies from the National Institute of Health found that the risk of having a car accident roughly doubles after a person has used marijuana.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), about 18% of all motor vehicle driver deaths involve the use of drugs other than alcohol, such as marijuana and cocaine. In addition, an NHTSA roadside survey found that 22% of drivers were found to have taken illegal prescription or over-the-counter drugs.
Mimicking Drugs’ Effects
The automaker and scientists from Meyer-Henschel Institute in Germany developed the drugged driving suit to mimic some of the effects of cannabis, cocaine, heroin, and MDMA (also known as Ecstasy), for instance, slower reaction time, distorted vision, hand tremors, and poor coordination.
Gundolf Meyer-Hentschel, CEO of the Meyer-Hentschel Institute said:
We know that some drugs can cause trembling hands, so we incorporated a device into the suit that creates just such a tremor. Drug users sometimes see flashing lights in their peripheral field, an effect recreated by our goggles, while imaginary sounds are generated by the headphones. Additionally, the goggles distort perception, and produce colorful visual sensations — a side effect of LSD use.
Andrew Krok, writing for CNET, said a Ford video (which you can see at the end of this blog post) showed that even Ford’s own test drivers found it impossible to drive safely while wearing the suit in driving tests in a controlled environment. Krok said the suit works in several ways: Headphones create distracting sounds, special glasses give the driver tunnel vision, a tremor generator causes a hand to shake, and ankle weights and padding slow a person down and throw him or her off balance.
There’s no better way to convince yourself to avoid drugged driving than by mowing down a field of cones while wearing a pair of glasses that look like they were designed by a drugged-up Kanye West.
Ford had previously created a drunk-driving suit, but with the growing number of locations offering medicinal or recreational marijuana, driving under the influence of drugs is is becoming more of a concern. Colorado allows both medical and recreational marijuana.
The Ford Motor Company Fund, the Governors Highway Safety Association, and safety experts designed the Skills for Life program to teach teens who have just gotten their drivers licenses — and their parents — necessary skills for safe driving beyond what they learn in standard driver education programs. By the end of this year, all 50 U.S. states, Puerto Rico, and the District of Columbia will have a hands-on driving clinic in this program. In addition, the program will be offered in 30 countries. The program expects that by the end of the year, 150,000 drivers will have received behind-the-wheel training.
Ford’s video shows how the suit works: