Astronauts and would-be pilots use flight simulators to develop and hone their skills for the real thing. Neurologists have the ability to digitally map a person’s brain and perform a simulated surgery in an effort to predict likely outcomes.
Now, thanks to Ford’s Driving Skills For Life Program (DSFL), newly minted teenage drivers can get an experience that simulates driving while drunk without ever consuming a drop of alcohol or breaking any laws on the open road.
The drunk driving simulator uses a drunk driving suit that impairs the ability to drive, similar to being drunk.
“It’s not like traditional Driver’s Ed,” says Mike Speck in the BuzzFeed video, the lead facilitator at DSFL. “This is more a process of making teens aware of the repercussions of certain actions on the road.”
To impair coordination and balance, teens have a set of weights strapped to their body in different locations. For instance, one might be on the left ankle while others weight their shoulders and wrists down.
For a slower physical reaction time, trainers attach restrictive braces to both elbows and knees. Lastly and, perhaps, most challenging, the young participants don muffling headphones and vision-distorting goggles.
“All right, so I have a confession,” says one young male participant as Speck dresses him in the “drunk suit.” “I’ve never been drunk before. This is what it’s like to be drunk?” Moments later, in full gear, he turns to his trainer, “You look way more attractive.”
Teen participants perform the DUI field tests while in the suit and get a sense of how difficult even something as simple as touching the tip of your nose is after consuming too much alcohol. “The suit wasn’t really designed to be driven with,” says Speck. “Instead, what we do is we just have them wear the goggles.”
The driving portion of the simulator is marked with cones that teens navigate the car through. On the first pass, participants are “sober,” meaning they’re not wearing the vision-impairing goggles. None of the teens hit any of the cones while driving sober.
Then they each put on the goggles.
“Well, the cones have turned into blurry orange blobs,” says a young woman who’s just donned her goggles behind the wheel. “So I really don’t know how this is going to go.”
After crushing a majority of the cones on her “drunk drive,” she comes away with a much different perspective. “It’s terrifying and I’m in a tiny parking lot in a controlled environment. People get drunk and they don’t feel inhibited like that. They don’t feel that fear so they’re not even being as cautious.”
Teenagers and the consumption of alcohol remains a very serious issue. Healthcare professionals have known for decades that the earlier a person consumes alcohol and drugs the more likely they are to develop issues of addiction.
Teens and Drunk Driving Statistics
Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) reports the following teen alcohol statistics:
- Car crashes are the leading cause of death for teens, with at least a quarter of those deaths involving an underage drinker
- Kids who start drinking early are seven times more likely to be involved in a car crash where alcohol consumption was a factor
- Among 10th graders, 40 percent report drinking alcohol
- Studies show that about one in seven teens binge drink, though one out of 100 parents believe their teen ever binge drinks
Ford’s drunk driving simulator for teens is an effective method of prevention. By allowing teenagers to feel the lack of control drinking induces behind the wheel of a car, they’re more likely to make smarter alcohol-related decisions not just as teens but for the rest of their lives.