The Ford Motor Company has created a unique body suit that simulates the effects of driving under the influence of illegal drugs. The aim is to educate young people about the dangers of driving whilst under the influence of drugs.
Ford developed the suit together with scientists from the Meyer-Hentschel Institute in Germany to simulate some of the effects of popular drugs such as cannabis, cocaine, heroin and MDMA (commonly known as Ecstasy). Physical effects include slower reaction time, distorted vision, hand tremors and poor coordination.
The new Drug Driving Suit will be incorporated into Ford’s Driving Skills for Life, its award-winning young driver programme that has provided hands-on and online training to more than 500,000 people around the world since the programme began 11 years ago. Young drivers will have the opportunity to wear the new suit and receive driving tuition on a closed road course.
“Driving after taking illegal drugs can have potentially fatal consequences for the driver, their passengers and other road users,” said Jim Graham, manager of Ford’s Driving Skills for Life course. “We have already seen first-hand the eye-opening effect that our Drink Driving Suit has had on those who wear it behind the wheel and are confident that our new Drug Driving Suit will have a similar impact.”
According to a European study, drivers who get behind the wheel after taking drugs are up to 30 times more likely to be involved in a severe crash. Despite the risks, one in 10 people say they have accepted lifts from people they believe have taken illegal drugs.
Similar to the Drink Driving Suit that Ford incorporated into the DSFL programme last year, the new Drug Driving Suit simulates the effects of reduced mobility, vision and coordination, using padding and ankle weights, goggles and headphones. The team also introduced new features that simulate effects specific to illegal drug use.
“We know that some drugs can cause trembling hands, so we incorporated into the suit a device 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 colourful visual sensations - a side-effect of LSD use.”
The European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction estimates that in Europe last year 8.8 million 15-24 year-olds used cannabis and 2.3 million people in that age group took cocaine. In the UK, an average of 400 people are arrested every month on drug-driving charges and illegal drug use may be a factor in as many as 200 road deaths every year. According to the French Delegation for Road Safety, drugs were a factor in 23 per cent of fatal road accidents there last year and the number of drivers who failed drugs tests rose by 44 per cent.
Ford has teamed with leading safety organisations across Europe, including the Belgian National Road Safety Association, Association Prévention Routière in France, Deutscher Verkehrssicherheitsrat in Germany, the ACI in Italy, Road Safety Russia in Russia, Dirección General de Tràfico in Spain and the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents and AA Driving School in the UK. The programme will be extended this year to a total of 11 countries in Europe, with launches planned for Denmark, Turkey and the Netherlands.
Drug driving infographic