Arbella’s new tagline for teens – “Don’t let Distractions Take Over”
On Wednesday, March 9th, Arbella announced that with the ever increasing technological distractions for teens while driving, that it has renewed its commitment to its Distractology program for another five years.
The Distractology tour, the first of its kind in the country, began in 2010. The program features a 36-foot-long mobile classroom that has visited more than 120 towns in Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, and New Hampshire. Leading students though a variety of true-to-life distracted driving scenarios, the mobile classrom aims to educate its participants as t the hidden hazards involved in distracted driving.
More than 100 high schools have already participated in the program, which lets teen drivers maneuver for 45 minutes through a myriad of “distracting scenarios” including smartphones, streaming music, food, drink as well as various residential and highway conditions.
This year the annual Distractology program kicked off at Boston College High School with Col. Richard McKeon of the Massachusetts State Police and Jeff Larason, director of the state’s Highway Safety Bureau. As part of the program launch, both officials got behind the wheel of the Arbella Foundation’s newly updated distracted driving simulator, Distractology.
The original driving simulations, created by the University of Massachusetts Amherst Human Performance Lab, are still used but have been updated for this year’s relaunch in order to incorporate the latest technological distractions. The Distractology website also has been revamped and now features a teachers portal, so that the learning can continue after the mobile classroom has moved on.
Though laws have been put in place and drivers are aware of the dangers, we are more tethered to our phones than ever before, making distracted driving more common and a bigger threat to the safety of our communities,” said John Donohue, chairman, president and CEO of the Arbella Insurance Group, and chairman of the Arbella Insurance Foundation. “Arbella’s Foundation is proud to have been one of the first to tackle distracted driving, and we’re excited to continue to offer Distractology to the newest wave of young drivers.”
In 2016, the Distractology tour will make stops in communities in Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island. The program is implemented via Arbella’s network of more than 500 independent insurance agencies throughout New England who volunteer their time by providing Distractology training in their own communities.
Mental distractions persist even after task is completed
The results of a 2015 AAA study on distracted driving found that levels of mental distraction continued at unsafe levels for as long 27 seconds after the completion of the distracting task.
“The lasting effects of mental distraction pose a hidden and pervasive danger that would likely come as a surprise to most drivers,” said Peter Kissinger, President and CEO of the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. “The results indicate that motorists could miss stop signs, pedestrians and other vehicles while the mind is readjusting to the task of driving.”
Hands-free does not mean distraction free
In addition, many drivers operate under the impression that a hands-free device is distraction-free. Drivers should use caution while using voice-activated systems, even at seemingly safe moments when there is a lull in traffic or the car is stopped at an intersection,” said Marshall Doney, AAA’s President and CEO in the same study. “The reality is that mental distractions persist and can affect driver attention even after the light turns green.”
Overall, the study discovered that no matter the type of hands-free technology, all of the systems increased mental distraction in drivers to unsafe levels. With that study in mind, Arbella announced this past week the Arbella Insurance Foundation has decided to recommit to another five years of its Distractology Program.
Teens need to learn to be less distracted now more than ever
“Motor vehicle crashes continue to be the leading cause of death among 16-19 year-olds in the United States, and their risk of being involved in a fatal crash is almost three times higher than drivers aged 20 and older,”says Dr. Donald L. Fisher, professor and former department head of the College of Engineering, UMass Amherst, and national expert on distracted driving.
“We created a simulator that mimics real life distracted driving and educates young drivers about the hazards of this dangerous behavior. By participating in the training, new drivers can be better equipped at anticipating hazards and abstaining from dangerous behavior.”
Concurring with Mr. Fisher, is the 2015 The AAA study also noted that teens have the highest crash rate of any group in the United States. In nearly six out of ten moderate-to-severe-crashes, distraction was the culprit. Arbella says that the more than 11,000 teens who have completed the Distractology training course, are 19 percent less likely to have an accident and 25 percent less likely like to get traffic violations. Even more interestingly, ninety-six percent of students who have participated in the program stated that they would recommend it to their friends.