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More Than 3,600 New Drivers Have Used Distractology 101

The Newton Patch reports that Distractology 101, an interactive driving simulator program developed by the Arbella Insurance Human Performance Laboratory in the Mechanical and Industrial Engineering (MIE) Department, has now trained at least 3,621 new drivers about the dangers of distracted driving since it began touring the Northeast in 2010. Distractology 101 will be visiting Newton for a week beginning on February 26. The technology for Distractology 101 was developed under the leadership of Professor Donald Fisher, head of the MIE department and director of the Arbella Insurance Human Performance Laboratory, for the Arbella Insurance Group. 

New drivers, in this case, are defined as those who have been licensed for less than three years or have a learner’s permit. In a 2012 survey, 97 percent of Distractology 101 participants said the experience was effective or extremely effective, and 82 percent said they would recommend the experience to friends.

The Distractology 101 program is touring the Northeast in a 36-foot-long, neon-yellow, mobile classroom outfitted with two high-tech, life-like, driving simulators designed to give new drivers the chance to experience the perils of distracted driving in a safe learning environment. Driving distractions can mean texting, phoning, tuning, eating, or any other activity that causes the mind and eyes to wander while driving.

More than 3,000 people are killed each year in motor-vehicle crackups involving distracted drivers, and an additional 416,000 are injured in crashes involving distracted drivers. As just one example, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, sending or receiving a text takes a driver's eyes off the road for an average of 4.6 seconds, the equivalent of driving the length of an entire football field at 55 mph with your eyes shut.

Professor Fisher noted that his lab’s research has shown that a driver who is texting is 20 times more at risk than a driver who isn’t, and driving while texting is seven times more dangerous than driving while legally impaired by alcohol. Much of this added risk is caused by glancing away from the road for two seconds or more.

“It is important that the readers understand just how incredibly risky texting is while driving,” added Fisher.

The Newton Patch article included this telling quote from John Donohue, chairman, president, and CEO of the Arbella Insurance Group and chairman and president of the Arbella Insurance Foundation: “Distracted driving is a widespread epidemic among young drivers that continues to worsen, particularly as mobile devices become more prevalent, more advanced, and more addictive. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, more than 800,000 drivers are using a hand-held cell phone at any given moment, but only 57 percent recognize it as a serious threat to their safety. This lack of awareness and understanding is quite startling. It is our hope that Distractology 101 will continue to tackle this naivety head-on and force drivers to once and for all break their mobile phone addiction while on the road.”

In the Newton Patch article, Steven Aronson, president & CEO of Aronson Insurance, said that “When we partnered with Arbella in October of 2012 to bring Distractology 101 to Newton North High School, the program saw enormous success. Students, parents, teachers, and even the local police force saw the value and importance of this program, which is why we are delighted to bring the same program to Newton South High School. Our agency is proud to support a program that aims to educate young drivers of the dangers of distracted driving, ultimately saving the lives of our teens and other drivers.”

The Distractology 101 driving simulator will travel to many more communities in Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island during 2013, offering 45 minutes of simulated distracted driving to each participant.

During the driving-simulator training, teens and other new drivers face a number of scenarios based on real-world examples, thus educating participants on how to anticipate hidden hazards, react to the road, and avoid accidents.Participants also complete the online portion of the curriculum at www.DistractU.comand make a safe-driving pledge in order to finalize the training. (February 2013)