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The Ride: Drugged driving suit simulates the effects of marijuana, other drugs

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Drugged driving suit uses ankle and wrist weights, bandages, goggles and headphones to give drivers the feeling of what it's like to drive high

We’ve all heard the slogan: drunk driving kills. And it does, to the tune of about 10,000 Americans each year.

But what about drugged driving — when people smoke a little weed, take opioids or otherwise alter their minds and bodies before sitting behind the wheel of a moving car? Another 6,000 people die from that each year, and many of them are teens.

Drugs impact driving in a multitude of ways — slowing reaction times, making vision all googly and just generally making it difficult to steer that two-ton Tessie of a vehicle in a straight line. So Ford Motor Company has come up with a plan that just might give a teen pause before smoking out and firing up the ignition.

"With the drugged driving suit, it mimics the effects of drugs," said Stephanie Dunham, a coordinator with Ford's Driving Skills For Life program, which teaches advanced driving skills to teenagers, including some time inside the new drugged driving suit.

"It takes different effects from marijuana, heroin, and it gives them a simulation of what it’s like so you can see why you shouldn’t drive under the influence."

In other words, it involves ankle and wrist weights to throw off balance, and bandages to limit a driver's range of motion.

Behind the wheel of a car, drugs can actually restrict mobility. They can force movements to become exaggerated. They could even inspire the shakes. If you’ve ever watched a drunk weave, rather than walk, down the sidewalk, you get the idea.

The suit also involved a hand tremor generator to simulate the effects of drugs. Goggles with psychedelic lights. And headphones with distracting, unsettling music.

This year, Ford’s new drugged driving suit will be making the rounds at driving schools in 15 states, including Arizona, California, Michigan and New York. It’s part of a curriculum that teaches teens the skills they don’t learn in driver’s ed — like how to recognize, and react to, hazards and how behaviors, like drinking and taking drugs, impact driving.

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