Distracted driving is a serious problem with staggering numbers: nearly 6,000 people are killed each year due to multitasking behind the wheel, and people who text while driving are 23 times more likely to be in a crash or to barely avoid one. Studies have even shown that driving while distracted is equivalent to driving with a blood alcohol level of 0.08.
“We’re proud to be partnering with Arbella to educate teens and other new drivers about the dangers of distracted driving,” said McGrath Insurance President Richard McGrath. “This is about saving the lives of our kids in the Sturbridge area. We hope parents and teens will recognize the importance of this education effort. Training like this could be the difference between being safe and being a statistic.”
Arbella Insurance Group Charitable Foundation is dedicated to putting an end to this dangerous behavior. How? With a 36-foot-long, neon-yellow mobile classroom outfitted with high-tech driving simulators that give new drivers (usually teenagers) a real-life look at the potentially disastrous effects of distracted driving. It’s an interactive experience designed to create a new generation of safe drivers.
“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. “Those numbers went down because of education efforts, not just tougher laws. We want to use that strategy to attack the distracted driving problem. Laws are useful, but they alone won’t change behavior.”
“Our goal with Distractology 101 is to put 10,000 new drivers through this training. We want to show them just how dangerous it is to text or talk on their cell phone at the wheel,” continued Donohue. “It’
The University of Massachusetts at Amherst conducted Arbella-sponsored research on distracted driving, and also created the simulations used in the Arbella training sessions. The Distractology 101 driving simulator tour 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 that drivers with a year’s driving experience to be in a fatal crash,” said Dr. Donald L. Fisher, professor and department head at the College of Engineering, University of Massachusetts at Amherst, and a national expert on distracted driving. “In our lab, we have developed a program for Arbella that mimics real-life driving. Evaluations of this program suggest that it makes novice drivers substantially more likely to engage in behavior 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.
Training will take place from 8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and 1:15 p.m. to 3:30 p.m., July 16 through 20. To register for a free 45-minute training session, contact Elissa Boos, at 508-347-6850, x105, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
* * * * *
McGrath Insurance Group, Inc. of Sturbridge, Mass. (www.mcgrathinsurance.com)