With the festive season around the corner, Ford Motor Company of Southern Africa (FMCSA) and brandhouse, through its Drive Dry initiative, have teamed up to demonstrate the effects of drinking and driving this week.
Ford’s drunk driving suit is a revolutionary suit designed to mimic the effects of driving under the influence of alcohol. The suit is designed to simulate physical body changes and challenges experienced by a person under the influence of alcohol.
South Africans are not easily put off by the legal ramifications of drinking and driving, or drinking and walking. “It won’t happen to me” is a common attitude amongst many South Africans, particularly amongst the younger generation.
Statistics released in January 2014 following the 2013/2014 festive season indicated that more than 1 500 people were killed in close to 1 300 fatal crashes recorded on South African roads over the period. Of those fatalities, drunk pedestrians proved to be very hazardous, too.
“Ford’s innovative drunk driving suit makes users instantly feel unsteady with devices designed to mimic the effects of drinking,” said Eugene Herbert, Ford’s Driving Skills For Life programme manager in South Africa. “Showing the effects of drinking and driving, or drinking and walking, is especially pertinent at this time of the year, as we head into another festive season. Research indicates that around 50% of people who die on our roads have a blood alcohol concentration above 0.05 gram per 100 millilitres. “The drunk driving suit helps demonstrate in a very easy way the clear correlation between peoples’ consumption of alcohol and their impaired actions.”
A number of volunteers tried out the suit at a sober challenge hosted at Johannesburg’s Nasrec Expo Centre. They were fitted with earmuffs to impair hearing and delay reactions; vision impairment glasses that produce ghost images and tunnel vision; and a number of weights and pads were placed on them to slow and restrict their movements and reaction times. The overall impact was the drunk sensation that a driver feels when he or she has to use reflexes and movements whilst driving.
“Good grief!” exclaimed BraaiBoy blogger Gareth Daniell after slipping behind the wheel of a Ford Fiesta on a specially-prepared track on the grounds of the expo centre, while wearing a weighted suit and goggles. “I thought I knew a thing or two about driving under the influence, but this is something else. What’s alarming is that you’re unable to realise when you’re drunk just how dangerous you are. I couldn’t see a thing! Every now and then you want to take a chance, but there is no control, this is reminder not to even think about taking that chance.”
Alcohol has been found to be present in over 60% of pedestrian deaths where blood was tested, and 90% of male pedestrians killed at night.
“You could lose everything the moment you choose to drink and drive or drink and walk,” said Zanele Njapha, Sustainability Manager at brandhouse. “Unfortunately, consumers don’t realise that their ability to take advantage of opportunities in life is threatened by their drinking behaviour.”
FMCSA and brandhouse, aim to encourage a cautious driving culture, to promote safety as well as educate the public on responsible alcohol consumption during the festive season.
[Top Image: A sober Gino Shelile from Ignition TV, stumbles as he demonstrates the effects of the Drunk Suit while trying to complete a simple walking exercise while Ethol Mohale from Ford’s Driving Skills For Life programme looks on.]