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Bellingham Bulletin

Students Experience Dangers of Distracted Driving

Jun 30, 2017 06:00AM ● Published by David Dunbar

Gallery: Distractology at Bellingham High [3 Images] Click any image to expand.

So, your teenager is doing 55mph along I-495 and looks away from the road to read a text or take a “selfie.” In those 4.6 seconds, the car has travelled the length of a football field.  And your teen may as well have been blindfolded. This is distracted driving.
 
At Bellingham High School last month, 80 teens went through an educational program called “Distractology.” Sponsored nationally by Arbella Insurance and locally by HUB International New England (an insurance brokerage), “Distractology” shows up on campuses as a 36-foot-long mobile classroom outfitted with two high-tech driving simulators.

BHS teens signed up to spend 45 minutes each in front of the simulators. These new drivers will be run through seven scenarios where they are tempted to be distracted and then are suddenly faced with driving situations that require immediate action.

A short discussion with Tour Manager/Instructor Nick Prpich follows each scenario. What happened?  What could have been avoided? “We want them to realize what’s on the road ahead…to avoid accidents, be more patient, and be better drivers,” says Prpich.

In 2013, 3,154 people were killed in motor vehicle crashes involving distracted drivers.  Another survey reports that at any given time, there are 660,000 distracted drivers on the road.
Drivers who have completed “Distractology” (which includes an online component and a challenge) are “19 percent less likely to have an accident and 25 percent less likely to get traffic violations.”

Teens can get a break on their insurance (up to 7%) according to Bill Gagne, the HUB branch manager in Bellingham. They also get a $15 gas card for participating. “We’re incentivizing and training students to avoid accidents…to avoid distractions,” says Gagne.

Mom and Dad should be paying attention here too.  One survey revealed that 77% of teens agree that adults tell them not to text or email while driving, yet these same adults do it themselves “all the time.”

Last year, there were more than 70,000 Instagram posts tagged #DrivingSelfie, #SelfieWhileDriving, #HopeIDon’tCrash and others. In the first four months of 2017, there were 20,000-plus similar posts. Distracted drivers are involved in approximately one million car crashes every year in the U.S.

This is the first time “Distractology” has been offered to Bellingham High School students.  Program coordinator Melissa Newman says it took more than two years to get the free program because of its popularity across the region. (Check out www.distractology.com for more information.)
In Print, Municipal, Life+Leisure, Schools, Community In the July 2017 Print Edition

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