TPHS Partners With Ford Automotive

TPHS Partners With Ford Automotive

By: Jacquelyn Schlabach, Tinley Junction

The first 100 days of summer, starting from Memorial Day, are considered to be the deadliest for teen drivers. 

According to, an average of 260 teens are killed in car crashes each month during the summer.

One of the many factors that contribute to those fatalities is driving under the influence of alcohol and illegal drugs. In an effort to teach teens about the effects and consequences of getting behind the wheel while intoxicated, Ford Motor Company partnered with Bremen High School District 228 to give students a near real-life experience of what happens when they decide to drive under the influence.

On Thursday, May 16, sophomores at Tinley Park High School were able to participate in demonstrations of Ford’s drugged driving suit that “re-creates the reduced mobility, slowed reaction time, distorted vision, hand tremors and poor coordination that occurs when driving under the influence.” Students were also able to get behind the wheel of a 2019 Ford Mustang, brought by Joe Rizza Ford of Orland Park, to wear goggles that distorted their vision to show what it would be like driving drunk.

“I think it’s part of our responsibility as a global automaker to educate the next generation of driver’s and make sure our roads and our drivers are as safe as they can possibly be,” said Ford representative Kristin Tassi. 

This was the first time that Ford had brought the suit to Chicago to be used for a one-on-one demonstration, and all the schools in District 228 were able to experience it throughout the week.

The suit that students wore was comprised of ankle and wrist weights to throw off their balance; neck, elbow and knee pads that restricted movement, as well as goggles that impaired their vision with bright, blinding lights. Students who participate in Ford’s Driving Skills for Life teen driver training program—which is offered in all 50 states—use the suit, as well. 

“I didn’t know what was happening, I was about to fall, it was crazy,” said sophomore Sam Manock, who tried on the suit. 

Manock said the most difficult part was walking because the weights were heavy and threw off his balance to make him move the opposite way that he intended. 

“It’s a great lesson to learn and it helps people from making the bad decision of drinking and driving,” he said. “I would definitely recommend this to a friend to save a life.”

As students were experiencing walking in the suit, Officer Kanoah Hughes, with the Tinley Park Police Department, conducted field sobriety tests, which included a walk-and-turn, horizontal gaze test and one leg stand test.

“I think everybody was surprised at how impaired or how unbalanced they were when doing the test,” Hughes said.

Sophomore Lisa Simons, who also tried the suit on, said that it was a lot harder to walk than she expected.

“I thought that I was walking a lot farther than I was,” she said.

After her experience, she said her main takeaway was “don’t do it, no matter what.”

Tinley Park High School health and physical education teacher, Andrea Johnson, said that teachers can “talk about it all day” what it feels like to be under the influence, but for them to actually have a safe environment to experience the effects, it shows them the reality of how they interpret things when intoxicated.

“It’s been a very cool experience to see even just how [police] run the sobriety test and the directions and the reason that they’re doing that in that order to see how those signs become very evident,” Johnson said. “Even though they might think they’re doing a great job, to go back and see the result is pretty cool.”

While a group of students were inside the gymnasium trying on the suits, another group was outside taking turns going inside the Ford Mustang with the impaired glasses on.

“[I saw] two of everything,” sophomore Tai Roberson said. “So there were three vents in the car, I saw six. There was a set of buttons, you saw two of those, so it was just numbers everywhere. The radio was weird; I couldn’t really program it right.”

Brian Lietz, with Joe Rizzo Ford of Orland Park, said that it’s scary to watch the students attempt to move around in the car and touch or grab things because the goggles caused them to see double or even triple of things, which is how it could be in real life.

“We’re trying to show them that you’re seeing this now and you’re not under the influence of anything, imagine if you are, you think you can do anything at that point and you get in that car; that’s the scary part,” Lietz said.

While the experience was meant to be educational and fun, it certainly was scary for some to see the reality of driving intoxicated.

“Honestly,  now I know that I don’t want to be in that situation,” said sophomore Daniela Rosales.

Rosales said she was happy she got to experience it because now she knows for the future just how scary being in a dangerous situation like that can be.

“I usually tell a story—I’ve spoken in driver’s ed classes before—about my first time responding to a DUI crash,” said Hughes. “Three days on the job, by myself, responding to a fatal DUI crash involving a 16-year-old. The boy was pretty much dead when I got there. The hard part, though, was telling the mother that her son was dead. I usually share that story every time I talk to students about DUI stuff. I think that lasts a while.”

Hughes added that he works the night shift on the weekends patrolling and said he sees incidents where people are driving under the influence “quite often.” He thinks a lot of people don’t think about what happens after a crash or after one gets caught, and understanding how it will affect them in the future.

“I think a lot of people don’t think about what happens after the crash or after you get caught; the legal fees, I mean that’s if you survive a DUI crash, the legal fees, the hospital or God forbid you hurt or kill somebody else, all the stuff that happens after that so I try to make sure the kids really, really know.”

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