AMHERST, Mass. -- After 11 successful years, the Arbella Insurance Foundation is announcing the retirement of the Distractology program, one of the first programs in the country to use simulated driving scenarios to educate young drivers about the dangers of driving while distracted.
The program featured a mobile classroom outfitted with two high-tech driving simulators designed to give new drivers the chance to experience the perils of distracted driving. Arbella worked in tandem with researchers at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and Jack Morton Worldwide to develop the simulators. Simulations were based on real-world examples, including having the student text, post to social media sites, or change the radio while navigating residential and highway conditions. After running the program for 11 successful years, Arbella chose to retire it and move on to the next chapter of educating consumers on the dangers of driving while distracted. The simulator will return to UMASS Amherst where it will be housed on campus for further opportunities for research to provide outreach and education. The Arbella Insurance Foundation will continue to fund these efforts for the next three years.
“Over the course of Distractology’s journey, the program has touched all corners of Massachusetts and other parts of New England to curb bad driving behaviors before they became habits,” said Beverly Tangvik, President of the Arbella Insurance Foundation. “We displayed the trailer outside of the Massachusetts State House, were featured on national television programs, and had famous TV and sports personalities experience the training firsthand. Distractology far exceeded our expectations and helped show the dangers of distracted driving to countless people over the program’s 11 years.”
“Over ten years ago, when we first started seeing the impact of distracted driving among teens, we were excited for the opportunity to partner with the Arbella Insurance Foundation on Distractology,” said Professor Sundar Krishnamurty, chair of mechanical and industrial engineering. “Now, we are grateful to have the opportunity to bring the Distractology trailer back to the UMass Amherst campus as we continue our teen driver research. This donation will serve as an important research tool in our efforts to understand distracted driving habits and to find ways to curb those habits.”
Over the course of Distractology’s 96-month campaign, 148 insurance agents partnered with the Foundation to host the program at schools across Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island, with 77 of those agencies hosting multiple times. The trailer traveled to 165 different high schools, three colleges and universities and 26 other locations, including vocational schools, community organizations, police and fire stations, shopping plazas and driving schools. In total, nearly 20,000 students participated in the program.