Thursday 26 April 2018

Eddie Cunningham: Here's what happened when I got dressed up to drink and drive

Eddie Cunningham Motoring Editor

SO that's what it is like to drink and drive.

I don't drink – never have, don't like the stuff, so I'm not being holier-than-anyone – but I wore a specially designed 'suit' that mimics the physical effects of alcohol on your body.

And I got behind the wheel of a small car to see how I reacted.

I saw double and couldn't hear properly most of the time.

I was certain I was going straight.

I wasn't.

Eddie Cunningham dons the suit for the driving test
Eddie Cunningham dons the suit for the driving test
Eddie in the suit behind the wheel.
Eddie walks the line.
The car hits a cone

I ploughed into cones that I had swung around with ease before I donned the 'suit'.

For cones substitute pedestrian, pole, parked car or whatever and the gravity of the experiment quickly drained the fun of doing it.

I strayed madly from the white line I had walked with military ease only minutes previously.

And I caught a tennis ball once in six attempts with the suit on. I caught it every time beforehand.

Now don't think I was in any way predisposed to proving the obvious here. I was not. This was personal. I did my utmost.

To be honest, I wanted to prove Ford wrong, or at least show that I could do better than average by relying on basic driving skill, experience and intuition.

I won't deny that the suit posed a major challenge. It is not so much a suit as a series of scientifically generated bits and pieces that distort and reduce your body's ability to react.

Eddie in the suit behind the wheel.

It cost €3,000 to make and comprises strap-on weights for the ankles, legs, arms, elbows, ear muffs and specially constructed goggles. The overall effect, I'm told, closely resembles what happens when you have drink taken. Think I'll stay off it.

The 'suit' is part of a global 'Driving skills for life' initiative from Ford and is aimed at younger drivers in particular.

I got to sample it for a couple of hours. It is only here for a few days but will return with the Ford 'driving skills' initiative within a year or so.

To be honest, I thought I had done well. I drove slowly for a while, waiting to acclimatise. Then I got more confident.

Yes, my left leg felt like it had a heavy dog dragging and tugging at my trousers' end; I only heard muffled tones from people gesticulating at me and I fumbled like a nervous schoolboy to find and turn the ignition key.

The goggles confused me badly. As far as I was concerned there were two steering wheels and two gear levers and a Stretford End of onlookers (there were only a couple). Yet I felt confident I was getting around quite well.

I only hit a few cones and I only had to reverse a couple of times to get back on track.

And that was probably the most frightening aspect of it all.

I thought it had been a good session.

Afterwards someone said: "You didn't do too badly. If those cones were pedestrians you would have missed one and hit the others."

Sobering thoughts for a non-drinker in a drink-drive suit.

Indo Motoring

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