‘Drunk suit’ helps Halifax police show dangers of impaired driving

HALIFAX – Ford Motor Company and the Halifax Regional Police combined forces on Tuesday to demonstrate the dangers of impaired driving.

Using a specially designed “drunk suit”, people could see what it’s like to try to drive a car while under the influence of alcohol.

Marybeth Garson, who volunteered to try it out, got fitted with weights on her right foot, knees, elbows and a neck collar. She also had to wear glasses and acoustic headphones to complete the experience.

Const. John McLeod gave Garson instructions before she began her sobriety test.

“Remember to count your steps out loud, look at your feet as you’re going,” he said. “Don’t stop until you’ve completed it.”

Garson placed one foot in front of the other, wobbling forward with each step.

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“I felt very heavy and debilitated, and very woozy,” she said. “It was kind of like I was seeing double…and everything was kind of crisscrossing.”

She said she knows she wouldn’t have passed a real sobriety test.

“I just wouldn’t react to anything quickly — enough to drive, at least.”

Police say despite greater awareness of the hazards of drunk driving, it’s still a problem.

“There are four people in this country every day killed by impaired driving and 178 people injured,” said McLeod. “It’s the leading cause of criminal death in Canada and…in our youth between 16 and 25.”

In August, Halifax Regional Police charged 104 people with impaired driving.

Garson said she thinks wearing the suit is a smart way to get the message across.

“When you are under the influence, you don’t really think you are that drunk,” she said. “But to be in a sober state of mind but physically feel like you’re drunk, [it] was very eye-opening.”

Ford uses the motto “Feel how you should never feel behind the wheel” to accompany the campaign. The suit is used in schools, and the car company wants more people to get on board.

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“According to Halifax police, they do their programs all the time in the community and this Ford drunk driving suite would be a nice addition to their training,” said Ford spokesman Bob Power.