ABOUT TOWN: Distracted Driving Simulator Shows Perils of Texting, Taking Eyes off Road
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FIGHTING DISTRACTED DRIVING: Hardy Insurance Agency on Tosca Dr. is bringing the state-of-the-art Distractology 101 tour to Stoughton this week (Aug. 27-31) and About Town was there on Monday to give it a try.
Distractology 101 is an interactive program developed by the Arbella Insurance Foundation to teach new drivers the dangers of distracted driving. The campaign features a 36-foot-long, neon-yellow mobile classroom outfitted with high-tech driving simulators designed to give new drivers the chance to experience the perils of distracted driving, including texting while driving.
Instructor Topher Paone took Susan Hardy, the owner of Hardy Insurance, and myself into the mobile classroom, and sat us at what looked like a giant video game, with three screens, that simulated windshields, rear view mirrors, and side mirrors. Then, he put Susan and me through a few scenarios.
I'm a pretty confident driver, but when I left, I was a bit shaken up and was considering leaving my car and taking a cab home. In a matter of 20 minutes or so, I'd hit a pedestrian, a motorcycle rider, and wiped out two other cars.
Here's the ironic part - during the texting phase I avoided the accidents. But, the whole thing was a reminder that you need to concentrate 100% of the time you are driving.
Here's a few things I learned: The 2/6 rule, which says that taking your eyes off the road for two seconds in any six second period can result in an accident.
The ability to detect situations and changes around you are imperative. You can't stop for what you can't see. If there's a crosswalk coming, and your visibility is impaired in seeing the entire crosswalk, assume someone is in the crosswalk. Anticipating hazards is the name of the game in safe driving. You have to pay attention. As Paone said, you text, you lose. It leads to "textidents".
Hardy also got in four accidents (which Paone said is the average.) No one has ever had an accident-free experience on his machines.
Hardy, who purchased the former J. Arico Insurance Agency in Brockton, and moved it to Tosca Drive in Stoughton, was pleased to bring the Arbella Insurance Foundation's program to Stoughton.
"They are booked solid. I've been trying to get it here. I just wish it wasn't on Labor Day week. A lot of the college kids who could have used the program are already back at school."
Hardy, who is married to Stoughton Police Juvenile Division Detective Roger Hardy, has three children, Tyler (16, who took the course), Nick (13), and Gianna (10).
Clifford Julien, 20, took the course just before Susan and me. He's been driving a little over three years, and told About Town he learned a lot.
"After you take driver's ed, you kind of forget about the basic stuff. It made me realize the basics are essential. That's the biggest thing I took out of it. I did horrible when I was texting," he said.
Melissa Laguerre, 18, took the test with Julien. Melissa is not a licensed driver, but wanted to give it a try. She said it was helpful. "It gave me a few driving lessons."
Paone urged people to give it a try. "We're here to show you things you forgot or take for granted. It's like a refresher course in driving," he said.
According to a press release, Nearly 5,500 people were killed and almost half a million were injured in accidents related to distracted driving (including text messaging) in 2009. Not surprisingly, research has found that text messaging increases the risk of a crash by 23 times. In June 2011, more than 196 billion text messages were sent or received in the U.S. - up nearly 50% from June 2009.
Driving while distracted is particularly dangerous for teen drivers. In 2009, a startling 40% of American teens said they have been in a car when the driver used a cell phone in a way that put people in danger.
“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,” John Donohue, chairman, president and CEO of the Arbella Insurance Group, and chairman and president of the Arbella Insurance Foundation, said in a press release.
“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% 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," he continued.
“In just two years Arbella’s Distractology 101 campaign has made enormous strides in terms of combating distracted driving,” Hardy said. “The program’s mission is quite simple: to educate young drivers of the dangers of distracted driving and ultimately save the lives of teens living in communities such as Stoughton. Research has indicated that this type of real life stimulation and education can truly help to change dangerous behavior and we at Hardy Insurance are proud to support this important mission.”
The Distractology driving simulator, based on Arbella-funded research conducted with the University of Massachusetts at Amherst (UMASS), will travel to various communities in Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island during 2012, offering 45 minutes of simulated distracted driving to each participant.
During the driving simulator training - Distractology 101: A Crash Course on Distracted Driving - teens and other new drivers face a number of scenarios based on real-world examples, 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.com and make a safe-driving pledge in order to complete the training.
There's still an opportunity to sign up for the free Distractology 101 training - contact Hardy Insurance Agency at (781) 341-8300. Drivers receive certificates of completion and up to 7% off on their insurance!
HAPPY BELATED BIRTHDAY: to Carol Melendy, widow of Victor Melendy, a Stoughton firefighter who gave his life in service to his town. Her birthday was Monday.
HAPPY ANNIVERSARY to Seth & Noralee Curtis, who celebrated 24 years of wedded bliss on Monday, Aug. 27.