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Distractology 101 Featured in Taunton Gazette

Distractology 101

An article in the Taunton Gazette about teenage drivers being statistically more likely to be in car crashes than drivers from any other age group mentions the “Distractology 101” program, designed by the UMass Amherst College of Engineering in conjunction with the Arbella Insurance Foundation. In the past, Distractology 101 has been featured on the Today Show, the Boston Globe, and hundreds of other newspapers, TV shows, and websites. The Distractology 101 program brings a driving simulator to high schools across southern New England to teach students about the dangers of distracted driving, especially texting while driving. You can find out more about the Distractology 101 program and its touring schedule at www.DistractU.com.

As the Gazette article noted, some organizations specifically target teen drivers with outreach programs. The Arbella Insurance Foundation, for example, brings its Distractology 101 program to high schools across southern New England.

“We teach them with hands-on education about the dangers of texting and driving,” program coordinator Danny Corcoran said.

The program, designed in conjunction with the UMass Amherst College of Engineering, puts kids through the paces with a driving simulator. When drivers navigate through the virtual driving world while texting on their cell phones, they inevitably crash.

While distracted driving can be a problem for all drivers, younger people may have a harder time putting the phone down while behind the wheel, Corcoran said.

“We’re all millennials,” he said. “We’ve all been programmed with technology at our fingertips. When a phone beeps, we’re almost programmed to look at it.”

Distractology 101 was designed by the college’s Arbella Human Performance Laboratory for the Arbella Insurance Group Charitable Foundation. Among other lessons, the program teaches novice drivers how to pay attention at the wheel and forgo using electronic devices. The creation of Distractology 101 was directed by Donald Fisher, head of the Mechanical and Industrial Engineering Department and director of the Arbella Human Performance Laboratory.

Dr. Fisher said that his research shows that a novice driver is six times less likely to look for hidden hazards while driving than an experienced driver, and even less likely to be paying attention while texting or talking on the cell phone.

The centerpiece of the Distractology 101 program is a 36-foot trailer with two simulators that cost about $150,000 apiece. The trailer has been touring Massachusetts at stops organized by Arbella agents at schools, police stations, and other community gathering places. Novice drivers, in this case, are defined as fully licensed but with less than three years of road experience. The simulators, which each have a steering wheel, blinkers, gas and brake pedals, and a speedometer, take drivers through a half-dozen potentially dangerous scenarios on three wide-screen monitors. In one scenario, the drivers are told to read aloud a text message on their cellphones; in others their failure to notice a road sign or a hidden hazard can result in catastrophe. The simulator takes drivers down country roads, along curving suburban streets, and through an urban canyon lined with tall buildings.

Arbella teamed up with Fisher, who was studying distracted driving and ways to improve novice drivers’ attention, to implement the program for young drivers.

“What our research has done is to pinpoint the reasons distraction is creating the problems for the novice drivers that it is, and then develop training programs to reduce those problems,’’ Fisher has has said to explain Distractology 101’s reason to be .

Read Taunton Gazette article:

Statistics say teenage drivers at high risk in Massachusetts

Gerry Tuoti
Wicked Local Newsbank Editor
Posted Oct. 5, 2014 @ 11:32 pm
Updated Oct 5, 2014 at 11:38 PM

Teenage drivers are statistically more likely to be in a car crash than drivers from any other age group. Crashes kill more teens than anything else.

Nearly 40 of the Bay State’s 2012 traffic fatalities were young men and women between the ages of 16 and 20.

“The No. 1 cause of a crash for young drivers is inexperience,” said Dan Strollo, executive director of the Wilmington-based In Control Family Institute, an organization that runs driver safety programs. “Some of it is a lack of skills or making rookie mistakes, coming into a turn too quickly, pulling out into traffic too soon, not appreciating the length of the vehicle.”

An average of seven people age 16 to 19 die in car crashes every day in the United States, making it the nation’s leading cause of death among teens, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Teen drivers ages 16 to 19 are three times more likely to be in a fatal crash than drivers age 20 and older, the CDC reports.

That statistical reality recently hit home in Winchester, where popular Winchester High School student-athlete Patrick Gill, 17, was killed in a single-vehicle crash Sept. 20.

In Massachusetts, 39 people ages 16 to 20 were killed in car crashes in 2012, the most recent year for which the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has a full set of data. People ages 16 to 20 accounted for more than 11 percent of all traffic fatalities statewide, compared to a national rate of 9.6 percent.

There are rises and dips in the number of teens killed in crashes each year, but there is a general downward trend. In 2000, for example, the 63 people ages 16-20 killed in car crashes in Massachusetts represented approximately 14 percent of the state’s total traffic fatalities.

Some organizations specifically target teen drivers with outreach programs. The Arbella Insurance Foundation, for example, brings its Distractology 101 program to high schools across southern New England.

“We teach them with hands-on education about the dangers of texting and driving,” program coordinator Danny Corcoran said.

The program, designed in conjunction with the UMass Amherst College of Engineering, puts kids through the paces with a driving simulator. When drivers navigate through the virtual driving world while texting on their cell pones, they inevitably crash.

While distracted driving can be a problem for all drivers, younger people may have a harder time putting the phone down while behind the wheel, Corcoran said.

“We’re all millennials,” he said. “We’ve all been programmed with technology at our fingertips. When a phone beeps, we’re almost programmed to look at it.”

Strollo’s program, which is intended for drivers of all ages, gives drivers first-hand experience making it through emergency conditions.Gerry Tuoti
Wicked Local Newsbank Editor
Posted Oct. 5, 2014 @ 11:32 pm
Updated Oct 5, 2014 at 11:38 PM Teenage drivers are statistically more likely to be in a car crash than drivers from any other age group. Crashes kill more teens than anything else.

Nearly 40 of the Bay State’s 2012 traffic fatalities were young men and women between the ages of 16 and 20.

“The No. 1 cause of a crash for young drivers is inexperience,” said Dan Strollo, executive director of the Wilmington-based In Control Family Institute, an organization that runs driver safety programs. “Some of it is a lack of skills or making rookie mistakes, coming into a turn too quickly, pulling out into traffic too soon, not appreciating the length of the vehicle.”

An average of seven people age 16 to 19 die in car crashes every day in the United States, making it the nation’s leading cause of death among teens, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Teen drivers ages 16 to 19 are three times more likely to be in a fatal crash than drivers age 20 and older, the CDC reports.

That statistical reality recently hit home in Winchester, where popular Winchester High School student-athlete Patrick Gill, 17, was killed in a single-vehicle crash Sept. 20.

In Massachusetts, 39 people ages 16 to 20 were killed in car crashes in 2012, the most recent year for which the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has a full set of data. People ages 16 to 20 accounted for more than 11 percent of all traffic fatalities statewide, compared to a national rate of 9.6 percent.

There are rises and dips in the number of teens killed in crashes each year, but there is a general downward trend. In 2000, for example, the 63 people ages 16-20 killed in car crashes in Massachusetts represented approximately 14 percent of the state’s total traffic fatalities.

Some organizations specifically target teen drivers with outreach programs. The Arbella Insurance Foundation, for example, brings its Distractology 101 program to high schools across southern New England.

“We teach them with hands-on education about the dangers of texting and driving,” program coordinator Danny Corcoran said.

The program, designed in conjunction with the UMass Amherst College of Engineering, puts kids through the paces with a driving simulator. When drivers navigate through the virtual driving world while texting on their cell pones, they inevitably crash.

While distracted driving can be a problem for all drivers, younger people may have a harder time putting the phone down while behind the wheel, Corcoran said.

“We’re all millennials,” he said. “We’ve all been programmed with technology at our fingertips. When a phone beeps, we’re almost programmed to look at it.”

Strollo’s program, which is intended for drivers of all ages, gives drivers first-hand experience making it through emergency conditions.

One recent morning in North Andover, In Control students slalomed through cones, raced across the pavement and slammed on their brakes. The course, modeled after European driving schools, is intended to teach skills participants may not find in a typical driver’s education program.

“What we’re doing is training you how to react in an emergency situation,” he said. “The first drill we do is a highway panic stop. When the seatbelt locks, when the pedal pulsates, it’s a very foreign experience.”

Drivers who haven’t learned the proper skills, Strollo said, could be at an increased risk on the road.

Speeding, he added, is another major risk factor, particularly among young drivers. Poor seatbelt use is also a problem.

Among male drivers between the ages of 15 and 20 who were involved in fatal crashes in 2010, 39 percent were speeding and 25 percent were drinking, according to the CDC. Another CDC study shows only 54 percent of high school students say they always wear a seatbelt.

Strollo said parents have an important opportunity to set a god example when they drive with their kids.

“The big thing is, as a society and here in the United States, we don’t take driving seriously enough,” he said. (October 2014)

Gerry Tuoti is the Regional Newsbank Editor for GateHouse Media New England. Email him at gtuoti@wickedlocal.com or call him at 508-967-3137.