Wonder what it’s like to try to drive while you’re stoned? Working with German scientists, Ford Motor Co. has developed a suit that simulates what it’s like to drive on drugs.
Like a similar suit the automaker came up with last year that helps simulate driving while drunk, the costume is intended to help educate young motorists so they understand the risks they are facing when they get behind the wheel while taking illegal substances.
“The suit is designed not to produce the sensation of being on drugs, but to reproduce the side effects which may have a dangerous effect on your driving,” explains Paul Fay, Ford’s vehicle safety manager.
The suit uses a mix of weights, padding, headphones and special goggles to simulate the effects of drugs such as marijuana, cocaine, heroin and ecstasy – all of which, to varying degrees, can impact vision, coordination and reaction times.
“Driving after taking illegal drugs can have potentially fatal consequences for the driver, their passengers, and other road users,” said James Graham, global program manager for Ford Driving Skills for Life.
(Click Here to see which 10 states have America’s worst drivers.)
Graham claims the Drunk Driving Suit already has had an “eye-opening effect” on those who have used it, and Ford expects to have a similar impact with the new suit. The Driving Skills program has provided training to an estimated 500,000 people around the world since it was launched 11 years ago.
The effects of alcohol on driving are well known. Even after decades of law enforcement cracking down on those driving under the influence, alcohol is blamed for as much as a third of the highway fatalities in the U.S.
The overall death toll has, in fact, gone up recently, rising 8.1% during the first half of 2015 compared to the same period a year ago. There are a variety of reasons why that is happening. Among other things, Americans have been driving more as fuel prices drop and the economy recovers. Distracted driving is also a factor, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
(U.S. traffic deaths rising after a decade’s decline. Click Here for the latest.)
But NHTSA now estimates that drugs other than alcohol are responsible for 18% of all motor vehicle driver deaths. And a roadside survey undertaken by the agency found 22% of drivers testing positive for illegal, prescription or over-the-counter drugs.
Separately, a 2013 survey, the National Study on Drug Use and Health, found that 9.9 million Americans over the age of 12 admit to having driven while under the influence of illicit drugs.
“We know that some drugs can cause trembling hands, so we incorporated a device into the suit that creates just such a tremor,” said Gundolf Meyer-Hentschel, CEO of the Meyer-Hentschel Institute, which helped craft the Drug Driving Suit. “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.”
By the end of this year, Ford plans to offer the Driving Skills program in 30 countries and all 50 U.S. states.
(Traffic accidents spike up to 34% over Thanksgiving holiday. Click Here for the story.)