One of the world’s biggest automakers – Ford – has teamed up with a Germany company to develop a suit that mimics the effects of driving while under the influence of drugs like cocaine, marijuana, heroin and ecstasy.
Approximately 18 per cent of all motor vehicle driver deaths involve drugs other than alcohol, such as marijuana and cocaine, according to the most recent findings from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). A NHTSA roadside survey also found that 22 per cent of drivers tested positive for illegal, prescription or over-the-counter drugs.
Ford worked with scientists from the Meyer-Hentschel Institute in Germany to mimic factors like slower reaction time, distorted vision, hand tremors and poor coordination.
“We know that some drugs can cause trembling hands, so we incorporated a device into the suit that creates just such a tremor,” Gundolf Meyer-Hentschel said. “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 suit also has elbow and neck bandages to slow and restrict movement, and wrist and ankle weights to slow reaction time and affect balance.
The Meyer-Hentschel Institute focuses on the development and marketing of products and services aimed at the ageing population. It’s also created “age suits” that mimic the effects of ageing.
Ford also has a Drunk Driving Suit it uses in its driving education campaigns.
According to the 2013 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, approximately 9.9 million people 12 and older reported driving under the influence of illicit drugs. The risk of being involved in an accident roughly doubles after marijuana use, several studies from the National Institute of Health have shown
The Drugged Driving Suit was on display at the Edmonton Motor Show Wednesday. Our Health Matters reporter Su-Ling Goh tried it out.
“Use of marijuana and illegal substances while they’re operating a motor vehicle is very prevalent on Alberta roadways,” Cpl. Chris Little said after the Easter Long Weekend. “We’re seeing more of it now.”
“It seems on Alberta roadways at any time of the day, we encounter either drug or alcohol-impaired drivers,” Little said.
Between 2000 and 2007, 12,978 drivers died in vehicle crashes on public roads in Canada, according to the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse. Of these driver fatalities, 84 per cent were tested for alcohol and 46.4 per cent were tested for drugs. There were 5,929 drivers that were tested for both alcohol and drugs. Of these drivers, 2,689 (45.4 per cent) had no alcohol or drugs present, 1,097 (18.5 per cent) tested positive for a psychoactive drug (but negative for alcohol), 1,301 (21.9 per cent) tested positive for alcohol only, and 842 (14.2 per cent) drivers tested positive for both alcohol and at least one psychoactive drug.
The centre said these findings indicate that the extent of drug use among fatally injured drivers (33 per cent) is comparable to that of alcohol use (37 per cent).
The Drugged Driving Suit will also be incorporated into Ford Driving Skills for Life, the driver education program.