Impairment Suit Experience with Ford Canada

celebrating this life

Just in time for the long weekend, let's talk about impaired driving! 

Yesterday I spent some time with the Ford Canada and Kitchener Ford teams talking about impaired (drunk and drug) driving. So much progress has been made in my lifetime on this front. I still remember being a kid in the 80's and thinking nothing of all the dads driving around with a beer in hand. Now, that would never fly. 

There's also another element to this conversation now and that's the recent legalization of once illegal drugs in Canada and many States. While we all know we shouldn't drink and drive, we also need to educate on the dangers of driving while high. To demonstrated that, Ford Canada invited me out to test their Impairment Suits at my local Ford dealership (since I currently own three Ford family cars, I'm quite familiar with the place 😀)

ford canada

While I was busy looking at the new Mustangs (#dreamcar) the team was setting up the equipment for me to try out. There is both a drunk and drug suit that simulate the feeling of being under the influence. As someone who does imbibe in the occasional glass of wine or bourbon, I wanted to know more about the drunk driving suit. In Canada, it is illegal to drive with a blood alcohol concentration limit over 0.08 per cent. Everyone processes alcohol differently but to ensure you stay under that 0.08, it's roughly two drinks for men and one for women. If you are under the age of 21, that number drops to zero. None. Zilch. Nada. 

ford canada

The drunk impairment suit consists of knee and elbow pads, a weight for one ankle and one for your opposite wrist, a neck brace, goggles and headphones. This unbalance is the same as what you might experience if you are sitting at the cottage, have two beers and then try to stand up. The goggles have a rating of roughly 4 drinks (somewhere in the .17 percent range) and if the unbalanced weights don't get you, the goggles will. 

I was asked to complete some very simple activities, similar to what you would experience in a field sobriety test, and I couldn't do it. I was to walk through a small series of cones and I knocked over quite a few. Lesson - just don't drink and drive. Simple as that. There's Uber, taxis, friends, designated drivers, public transit. There's just no excuse. I even remember back to my University days (#UWaterloo) where the school had a team that worked nights and they would come pick you up if you drank too much. 

celebrating this life

Next was the drug impairment suit. This is the one I was dreading. While I figured I would know and understand the feeling of the drunk suit, since I do drink, I do not partake in drugs and had no idea what to expect. I was so worried about how this would feel that I made sure to eat my lunch two hours before trying on the suit for fear of ending up sick! 

The weights and pads all remained but now they added a neck control that hooked up to a hand glove that simulated a mild vibration. New earphones were added, this time with quite, gentle music and new goggles that had a flashing light just off to the side. Then, they asked me to weave through the cones again. If I did badly the first round, I did horribly on this one! The goggles doubled my vision, my weighted hand shook and those leg weights started to feel awfully heavy. I knocked over so many cones because I couldn't tell which one was real and which one was the double! 

Hello, beautiful! A 2019 Ford Mustang at Kitchener Ford

Luckily, I didn't feel sick from trying the suits but I will tell you that I did feel the gravity of the situation. Driving while impaired is no joke. That also includes impaired boating and hungover driving. Alcohol takes a long time to work its way through the body. It takes the average person about two hours to metabolize one drink and if you keep drinking, that number rises. The stats show that you could still fail a roadside sobriety test up to 20 hours after a night of heavy drinking. 

I live in Kitchener which is world famous for our Oktoberfest. In the last few years we've been hearing more and more about the dangers of hungover driving and luckily our Waterloo Regional Police are out in full force at night and in the morning with the RIDE program during Oktoberfest season. (Started in 1977, the RIDE program is a sobriety test used by police in Ontario, Canada. Basically, the police set up road stops along main areas and stop each car and ask if the driver has been drinking. If not, you are thanked for your cooperation and sent on your way.)

It's the Friday of the long weekend and that means everyone is either headed to The Beer Store or the garden centre (or both!) so please, make sure you have plans in place so you can get home safely. 

A note to parents of teens - Ford has a wonderful free program called Ford Driving Skills For Life. The program was established in 2003 by Ford Motor Company Fund, the Governors Highway Safety Association, and a panel of safety experts to teach newly licensed teens the necessary skills for safe driving beyond what they learn in standard driver education programs. The reality is that new drivers are inexperienced drivers. The leading cause of death for those under age 24 is motor vehicle collisions. 

This hands on learning experience (again, totally free!) aims to address the common factors in these collisions; impaired driving (impaired by alcohol or drugs), distracted driving (example: texting while driving) and speed. The half day session includes: 

  • Driving Rotations for Students & Guest
  • Hazard Recognition / Accident Avoidance
  • Vehicle Handling / Skid Control
  • Impaired Driving Simulation
  • Speed / Space Management and distractions

Parents are encouraged to attend with their teen and afterwards the teen will leave with a certificate of participation and new skills to help keep themselves and the road safe. Currently there are scheduled events for Halifax, NS and Niagara Falls, Ont (Available dates/times) If you are not in these two areas, sign up here to get notified when a training session becomes available near you.

I am sharing this because not only do I think the program is fantastic, I am a mother of two teenage boys who will be attending this course in the next few weeks. The Oldest was unfortunately in a motor vehicle accident at the beginning of this year and it has shaken his confidence. The skills taught in the Ford Driving Skills For Life program will help rebuild that. It is also my hope that both my sons will walk away understanding the gravity, just as I did wearing the Ford Impairment Suit, that we need to be vigilant and never under any circumstances get behind the wheel while impaired.

Thank you to Ford Canada and Kitchener Ford for hosting this event!