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Mobile classroom educates Assabet Valley’s teen drivers on dangers of distracted driving

By Valerie Franchi, Contributing Writer

The Distractology 101 mobile classroom.

The Distractology 101 mobile classroom.

Marlborough/Hudson – Students at Assabet Valley Regional Technical High School were actually encouraged to text and drive when the Distractology 101 tour visited the school Nov. 10-14.

“Distractology 101: A Crash Course on Distracted Driving” 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, 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.

“Since 2010, Distractology 101 has played a vital role in educating our communities’ young drivers on the dangers of distracted driving,” said Joe Santos of L & S Boule Insurance Agency, the local agency that hosted the event. “Though laws are now in place against distracted driving, education is the real key to making sure drivers make smart decisions behind the wheel.”

More than 100 Assabet Valley students with a driver’s permit or license participated in the

Ava Desautels, a junior at Assabet Valley Regional Technical High School, uses her cell phone during the driving simulation.

Ava Desautels, a junior at Assabet Valley Regional Technical High School, uses her cell phone during the driving simulation.

30- to 45-minute simulation. The simulator looks like a video game with a steering wheel, pedals, three large screens, and side and rearview mirror screens. 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 an online portion of the curriculum at www.DistractU.com and make a safe-driving pledge in order to complete the training. Drivers were allowed to use their own cell phones or ones provided to them to test their reaction times in various scenarios.

During the simulation, the computer let them know how many tickets or violations they received, as well as when they hit another car, person or stationary object.

Junior Adam Tedstone had four accidents.

“It was hard,” he said afterward. “I thought it would be easier.”

The experience was a “very big eye-opener” for junior Ava Desautels.

“You always think it is not that hard, but it is actually very hard,” she said. “You only have to look away for two seconds and you can crash.”

A view of the simulator.

A view of the simulator.

At the end of the course, participants received a $15 gift card for gas and a link to print out a certificate stating that they completed the safety course, which at certain insurance agencies may help reduce insurance premiums.

“We are very serious about helping our students understand the dangers of being distracted by anything, not just texting, while they’re behind the wheel,” explained Jerry Gahagan, dean of students at Assabet Valley.

The Distractology driving simulator, based on research conducted with the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, will travel to various communities in Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island during the 2014-2015 school year.

The simulator is a “very popular commodity,” Jeff Wood from L&S Boule said. “It is booked for this year and there is a waiting list for 2015.”

Assabet Valley was able to obtain it relatively quickly because plans for the simulator to visit Marlborough High School fell through. Principal Mark Hollick said he “jumped on board” when given the opportunity to bring it to his school and planned to try the test himself during its visit.

To date, 7,000 new drivers, meaning those that have been licensed less than three years or have a learner’s permit, have completed the Distractology 101 training.

Photos/Valerie Franchi

Short URL: http://www.communityadvocate.com/?p=56716

Posted by on Nov 30 2014. Filed under Byline Stories, Education, Photo Galleries. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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