Archies Students Turn Out For Texting While Driving Lessons
Archbishop Williams High in Braintree was host to the Arbella Insurance Foundation Distractology 101 tour this week.
Coasting down a winding, two-lane road, a student from Archbishop Williams High School receives a text message on his iPhone and tries to read it aloud.
He looks up once, twice, readjusting his car's position on the road each time. Then he looks up a third time, too late to break in time for a green truck stopped ahead.
The accident, like the road and the two vehicles, took place in virtual reality, on a screen in front of the young driver.
More than 50 Archbishop students and clients of Knapp Schenck & Company Insurance Agency participated last week in 40-minute training sessions designed to teach drivers about the dangers of distracted driving.
For three years, the Distractology 101 tour bus has set up in high school parking lots across New England, bringing its lessons to more than 3,700 drivers who have been licensed less than three years.
Participants sit in one of two driving simulators inside the bus, engage in various scenarios and watch videos on distractions, which can extend beyond texting to include changing radio stations, talking with friends and "Snackcidents."
According to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, 42 percent of students admit to texting while driving. And 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, according to Knapp.
“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, which sponsors the Distractology 101 tour.
Participants in the program are eligible for a discount through Arbella on their car insurance, Knapp account manager Roberta Fleming said.
In addition to texting scenarios, students last week encountered "impossible to predict" situations laid out by trainer Topher Paone, such as when a motorcycle runs a stop sign, tricky two-way stop intersections and blind spots.
One of the most important lessons for a young driver, Paone said, is for them to widen their vision of the road and avoid surprises.
It certainly helps if they aren't "textgating."