Monday 5 December 2016

Tested: How the drug driving simulator left me unable even to start up my car

Talking point...

Published 13/01/2016 | 02:30

Eddie struggles to even get in the car wearing the suit.
Eddie struggles to even get in the car wearing the suit.

No matter what I did I could not get the key into the ignition. Several times I was certain I had it lined up but only managed to prod it vaguely into the steering column.

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The reason for my  disoriented fumblings was the ‘Drug Driving Suit’ I was wearing.

It is designed to produce the same effects as someone getting behind the wheel of a car after taking one, or a variety of, illegal substances.

The suit’s arrival here, as part of a driver-safety campaign, is most timely with gardai focusing heavily on drug drivers on our roads.

The suit was developed by Ford in conjunction with scientists from the Meyer-Hentschel Institute in Germany.

It will be used in Ireland as part of the automaker’s ‘Driving Skills for Life’ free training programme with young drivers able to wear it on a closed course.  The initiative is being extended to 11 countries in Europe this year.

The idea is to simulate and highlight the effects of drugs such as cannabis, cocaine, heroin, and MDMA (ecstasy) and to show the level of impairment they can impose.

As far as my experience went, it would appear to have succeeded in its core aims. It significantly slowed my reaction time, distorted my vision to the point of near-dizziness at times and my coordination was dreadful. Not to mention the hand tremors – brought on by a little motorised unit on my wrist.

The special glasses and headphones created an eerie atmosphere of buzzing noises and flashing lights as well as blurred and double vision.

I was also kitted out with padding and ankle weights. I felt a slight nausea throughout.

Research shows that a driver is up to 30 times more likely to be involved in a fatal crash after taking illegal drugs.

Yet one-in-10 people say they have accepted lifts from people they believed were under the influence.

Ford Driving Skills for Life Manager Jim Graham says: “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.”

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