QUINCY, MA--(Marketwire -04/24/12)- Driving the movement to change the dangerous behavior of driving while distracted, The Arbella Insurance Foundation ("Arbella") today kicked off the third year of the Distractology 101 tour. 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. In tandem with the tour, Arbella is launching a public service announcement showing Boston Bruins goalie Tim Thomas' unsuccessful attempt at driving while distracted on the simulator.
Nearly 5,500 people were killed and almost half a million were injured in accidents related to distracted driving (including text messaging) in 2009.(1) Not surprisingly, research has found that text messaging increases the risk of a crash by 23 times.(3) In June 2011, more than 196 billion text messages were sent or received in the U.S., up nearly 50% from June 2009.(2) 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.(4) In 2012, AAA found that electronics were the number one cause of distraction for teen drivers and that females were twice as likely as males to use their phones while driving.(5)
"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," said John Donohue, chairman, president and CEO of the Arbella Insurance Group, and chairman and president of the Arbella Insurance Foundation. "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."
To date a total of 3,798 new drivers, meaning those that have been licensed less than three years, have completed the Distractology 101 training. Last year, 94% percent of students surveyed said the experience was effective or extremely effective and 75% said they would recommend the experience to a friend, up from 64% in 2010.
The Distractology driving simulator, based on Arbella-funded research conducted with the University of Massachusetts at Amherst (UMass Amherst), will travel to various communities in Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island during 2012, offering 45 minutes of simulated distracted 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.
"Motor vehicle crashes continue to be the leading cause of death among 13-19 year-old males and females in the United States," said Dr. Donald L. Fisher, professor and a department head in the College of Engineering, UMass Amherst, and national expert on distracted driving. "According to The Institute of Highway Safety, a total of 3,115 teenagers died in motor vehicle crashes in 2010 -- up 64% from 1975, which clearly illustrates the role distractions, particularly mobile devices, are playing in causing these crashes.
What we've created for Arbella is a simulator that mimics real life distracted driving and educates young drivers about the hazards of this dangerous behavior," Fisher continues. "Not only are program participants better equipped at anticipating hazards than non-participants, last year nearly 100% of students found the training effective, which is very encouraging to us."
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.
"We realize that putting an end to distracted driving won't happen overnight, but with experts like Dr. Fisher driving new research and the creation of innovative educational technologies, we truly believe we can increase awareness and change dangerous behavior," Donohue continued. "Distracted driving impacts everyone within the communities we serve, and we are dedicated to helping to put an end to unnecessary tragedies."
Distractology 101 even has its own vocabulary, designed with young drivers in mind, including buzzwords like "textident" (an accident caused by texting), "smerging" (swerving while merging) and "fishmailing" (losing control of the back of your car while emailing).
To find out when the Distractology 101 tour is coming to a community near you, log on to http://www.distractu.com/Tour.aspx, then sign up for the training by contacting a local insurance agent who has volunteered to host the training.
(1) Traffic Safety Facts: Distracted Driving 2009, U.S. Department of Transportation, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, September 2010
(2) Wireless Quick Facts, CTIA, 2011
(3) Driver Distraction in Commercial Vehicle Operations, U.S. Department of Transportation, Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, September 2009
(4) Teens and Distracted Driving, PEW, November 16, 2009
(5) Distracted Driving Among Newly Licensed Teen Drivers, AAA, March 2012
About the Arbella Insurance Group and the Arbella Insurance Foundation
Established in 1988, the Arbella Insurance Group (www.arbella.com) is a company with more than $600M in revenue with approximately $1B in assets, headquartered in Quincy, Massachusetts. Arbella is a customer-focused regional property and casualty insurance company, providing personal and business insurance in Massachusetts and Connecticut, and business insurance in Rhode Island and New Hampshire. Arbella Insurance Group founded the Arbella Insurance Foundation in 2004. The mission of Arbella's Foundation is to engage in activities and to support not-for-profit organizations that have a significant positive impact on the people and communities served by Arbella.