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Ottawa police show dangers of 'drugged driving' at Ottawa auto show

The suit, designed by Ford, simulates the effects of taking cannabis, heroin, LSD, cocaine, and ecstasy.

Metro reporter Joe Lofaro tests the 'drugged' driving' simulator at the Ottawa-Gatineau International Auto Show Thursday, March 17, 2016.

John Kiss/Ottawa Police

Metro reporter Joe Lofaro tests the 'drugged' driving' simulator at the Ottawa-Gatineau International Auto Show Thursday, March 17, 2016.

It’s not surprising that feeling supremely stoned in front of two uniformed police officers is a truly embarrassing feeling.

Yet that’s exactly how I felt Thursday when Ottawa police Const. TJ Jellinek was instructing me to walk toe-to-toe in a straight line while counting out loud at the Shaw Centre.

Ottawa police officers were at the Ottawa-Gatineau International Auto Show to give live demonstrations of a drugged driving simulation suit designed by Ford to show what it’s like to operate a vehicle while impaired by cannabis, LSD, cocaine, ecstasy, or heroin.

Police hope the simulation at the popular show will draw attention to the dangers of driving while impaired on drugs – what Sgt. John Kiss calls “an emerging trend.”

“The kids all get drunk driving is dangerous,” said Kiss, who heads the Ottawa Police Impaired Driving Counter Measures Program.

“’What’s the matter? Have a toke. Drive. It loosens me up. I’m more relaxed. I can drive better when I’m stoned,’ – this is the stuff we’re hearing. It’s incredible.”

At the Ford exhibit, officers have guests walk along a yellow strip of tape while counting out loud and then return to the beginning point, lift one leg, and count again.

Repeating the two exercises wearing Velcro body weights, distorted vision goggles, and headphones is no simple task. The goal is replicate slowed reaction time, impaired judgment, confusion, blurred vision ­– all side effects of taking illicit drugs.

Kiss said whether it’s alcohol or drugs, officers look for obvious warning signs that a driver is impaired, such as glossy or bloodshot eyes, slurred speech, and confusion.

“What we see (here) is exactly what we see when we see actual impaired drivers,” said Kiss.

Ford designed the suit for its Driving Skills for Life program which in its 13th edition is travelling across the U.S. and 34 other countries. 

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