One of the most terrifying experiences in life is when your child reaches driving age. I recall getting into the passenger seat as my son loaded into the driver’s seat, freshly-minted learner’s permit in hand. I had a momentary panic attack as he started the car; I was strapped in and there was no way I could physically climb over the middle console and reach the brakes fast enough if an emergency were to happen.
My son was totally in charge… of a two-thousand pound potential weapon! (And with all today’s distractions, too!)
And to think, this was only the beginning!
Fast-forward almost four years and my son is now a freshman in college, where he has a car. My terrors are still here, but have taken on yet another form — partying and driving in a college town. Like a good son, he promises me he Ubers at night but accidents still happen, right? And even if my son is sober, there are tons of drivers who are not!
According to NHTSA, approximately 18 percent of all motor vehicle driver deaths involve drugs other than alcohol, such as marijuana and cocaine. In fact one afternoon 17 years ago, I was stopped at a light when a car slammed into the back of me at 40+ mph. The driver was found to be under the influence of illegal drugs. My car was totaled and the accident left me with ringing ears –Really! Tinnitus which I still have from time to time– but otherwise I was relatively unharmed. But it only reinforced my worries about my son on the road.
Ford has created a special suit that simulates the feeling of being under the influence of illegal drugs, and teens can experience it. Ford developed the suit together with scientists from the respected Meyer-Hentschel Institute in Germany to simulate some of the effects of drugs such as marijuana, cocaine, heroin, and MDMA (commonly known as Ecstasy). Teens in the suit will experience slower reaction time, distorted vision, hand tremors and poor coordination. How cool is that?
The new “Drugged Driving Suit” will be incorporated into Ford Driving Skills for Life, the award-winning young driver program that has provided training to more than 500,000 people around the world through hands-on and online tuition since its inception 11 years ago.
“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. “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.”
Last year I got to experience Ford’s Drunk Driving Suit that Ford incorporated into the Driving Skills for Life program last year. Similarly the new Drugged Driving suit simulates the effects of reduced mobility, vision and coordination with padding and ankle weights, goggles and headphones.
“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. “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.”
Further details about the Ford DSFL program is available online at www.DrivingSkillsForLife.com, including training dates and venues, plus instructions about enrolling in the Ford DSFL Online training academy.