Mobile Classroom and High-Tech Driving Simulations Give Teens and Other New Drivers Real-Life Lessons on Distracted Driving
QUINCY, Mass., April 21, 2010 – Committed to attacking the increasingly dangerous problem of distracted driving, The Arbella Insurance Group Charitable Foundation (“Arbella”) today launched the Distractology 101 tour, featuring a 36-foot-long, neon-yellow mobile classroom, outfitted with high-tech driving simulators, to give new drivers (usually teenagers) a real-life look at the potentially disastrous effects of distracted driving. Quincy-area teens were among the first to go through the training at an unveiling ceremony at Arbella’s Quincy headquarters and experienced first-hand the extreme dangers of texting or talking on their cell phones while driving.
Distracted driving is a serious and growing problem in the US: resulting in an estimated 1.6 million crashes and 6,000 deaths each year. People who text while driving are 23 percent more likely to be in a crash or barely avoid one. Studies have even shown that driving while distracted is equivalent to driving with a blood alcohol level of .08.
“Drunk driving was the first epidemic,” said John Donohue, chairman, president and CEO of the Arbella Insurance Group and chairman and president of the Arbella Insurance Group Charitable Foundation. “Thanks to widespread education efforts, alcohol-related traffic fatalities have decreased nearly 50 percent since 1980. Arbella is using the same strategy to attack the distracted driving problem. Tough laws are important, but legislation alone won’t change behavior.”
“Our goal with Distractology 101 is to put 10,000 new drivers through this training,” continued Donohue. “It’s part of Arbella’s ongoing commitment to our customers, our agents and our community. If we save even one life, we’ll have made a difference.”
The driving simulator tour, which is two years in the making and based on Arbella-funded research conducted with the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, is designed to create a new generation of safe drivers. It will travel to select communities throughout Massachusetts and Rhode Island over the next three years.
“During their first month on the road, novice drivers are six times more likely to be in a fatal crash than drivers with a year’s driving experience,” said Dr. Donald L. Fisher, professor and department head at the College of Engineering, University of Massachusetts at Amherst, and national expert on distracted driving. “In our lab, we have developed a program for Arbella which mimics real-life driving. Evaluations of this program suggest that it makes novice drivers substantially more likely to engage in behaviors that will help them avoid crashes. Compared with untrained novice drivers who fail to anticipate hazards 40 percent of the time, program participants fail only 10 percent of the time. That’s powerful evidence for the benefits of education.”
During the driving simulator training, called Distractology 101: A Crash Course on Distracted Driving, teens and other new drivers will face a number of scenarios based on real-world examples that illustrate the dangers of distracted driving and teach participants how to anticipate hidden hazards, react to the road and avoid accidents. Participants are then asked to complete the online portion of the curriculum. At www.DistractU.com, they’ll take a training lesson for reinforcement of what they learned in the classroom and a safe driving pledge in order to complete the training.
Distractology 101 will teach participants everything they need to know about this new area of study: the science of distraction. It even has its own vocabulary, with buzzwords like “textident” (an accident caused by texting), “smerging” (swerving while merging) and “fishmailing” (losing control of the back of your car while emailing).
To find out when the Distractology 101 tour is coming to a community near you, log on to www.distractU.com/Students/Tour, then sign up for the training by contacting your local participating agent.
Teens Against Distracted Driving was founded by Seattle Car Accident Lawyer Jason Epstein who is also the founder of the Seattle law firm Straight Talk Law.