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Arbella updates its Distractology program

Arbella's Distractology mobile classroom features high-tech driving simulators that high school students spend 45 minutes on dealing with various distract-driving scenarios. (Photo: Arbella Foundation)
Arbella's Distractology mobile classroom features high-tech driving simulators that high school students spend 45 minutes on dealing with various distract-driving scenarios. (Photo: Arbella Foundation)

The Quincy, Mass.-based Arbella Insurance Foundation said it has relaunched its Distractology tour for an additional five years in response to the mounting issue of distracted driving and the high demand from local schools.

The company said the program, which was introduced in 2010, is one of the first to address distracted driving with young, inexperienced drivers.

The campaign features a 36-foot mobile classroom with high-tech driving simulators — originally created by the University of Massachusetts Amherst Human Performance Lab — and travels to high schools across New England. It leads students through a variety of true-to-life distracted-driving scenarios, educating participants to anticipate hidden hazards, react to the road and avoid accidents.

Arbella said, for the relaunch, it has updated the scenarios to include distractions created by smartphones, streaming music,  and food and drink, in both residential and highway conditions.

The company said the Distractology training has been completed by more than 11,000 teenagers to date and that past tours have proven that trainees will be 19% less likely to have an accident and 25% less likely to get traffic violations.

Focus on teen drivers

Teens have been reported to have the highest crash rate of any group in the United States. A 2015 study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found that distraction was a factor in nearly six out of 10 moderate-to-severe teen crashes, with auto fatality rates being the highest they have been in nearly a decade. Research from the National Safety Council found that auto-related deaths increased by 14% in the first six months of 2015, compared to the previous year.

“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 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.”

Program popular

The company said the Distractology tour has visited more than 120 towns in Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island and New Hampshire, with more than 100 high schools participating. About 96% of students who participated in the program said they would recommend it to their friends, the company reported.

“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,” said Donald L. Fisher, professor and former department head of the College of Engineering at the University of Massachusetts 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," he said.

Arbella said Distractology will travel to various communities in Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island during 2016, offering 45 minutes of simulated driving to each participant. Members of Arbella’s network of more than 500 independent insurance agents volunteer their time hosting the training in their own communities. The program, which is funded by the Arbella Insurance Foundation, is free for students.

Related: Arbella Foundation gave $2.8M to New England nonprofits in 2015

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