A man driving a car with a bottle of beer

“Over 10,000 a year died in drunk driving, and 1,200 of those were children. It’s just awful for anyone to have to deal with that,”

In an effort to prevent traffic accidents, injuries and fatalities involving drivers under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs, Sanderson Ford held a first-of-its-kind impaired-driving simulation test run in late April, where attendees — alongside a driving instructor — navigated through a safety driving course wearing Ford Motor Company’s “Impaired Driving Suit.”

The suit — equipped with earmuffs that impair hearing; vision impairment glasses; neck, elbow and knee bandages that slow movement; wrist and ankle weights that affect balance; and a bracelet-like device that vibrates — mimics the effects alcohol and/or drugs may have on a driver.

Jenny Kester, a spokeswoman for Sanderson Ford, said the purpose of the suit — which is part of Ford Motor Company’s Ford Driving Skills for Life, a program that provides newly-licensed teens with hands-on and web-based safe-driving curriculum — is to draw attention to the consequences of driving under the influence.

“The main goal is to provide awareness to the community about the dangers of drunk driving and just being impaired while driving,” Kester said.

The magnitude of those dangers are reflected through statistics. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration website, 29%, or 10,874, of the 37,133 fatal motor vehicle crashes in 2017 were alcohol-impaired driving fatalities.

“Over 10,000 a year died in drunk driving, and 1,200 of those were children. It’s just awful for anyone to have to deal with that,” Kester said.

And Kester added it’s especially important to raise awareness among the youth this time of the year.

“There’s a lot of drivers that are coming out from graduation. It’s that time of the year. Obviously, foremost, we want to prevent underage people from driving — but just to let them know, if they do find themselves in a situation, how dangerous it is.”

The suit offers drivers a first-hand perspective to impaired driving, Kester said.

“It’s one thing to tell somebody how dangerous drunk driving is, but if they get to experience it in a safe environment then maybe it can prevent people from doing it.”