Distracted driving program coming to Pioneer

  • Pioneer Valley Regional student Annika Tormanen, then 16, takes part in the Distractology course on distracted driving on June 14, 2018. The Distractology trailer will return to Pioneer from Tuesday to Friday. Staff File Photo

Staff Writer
Published: 9/2/2019 1:04:09 AM

NORTHFIELD — Students at Pioneer Valley Regional School can experience the dangers of distracted driving, but in the safety of a driving simulator this week.

Pioneer is hosting the Distractology trailer, from Arbella Insurance, from Tuesday to Friday. An on-site trainer will speak in detail about the dangers of texting while driving.

This year’s new School Resource Officer Kevin Thomas, a retired Holyoke Police officer, worked with Arbella to bring the program back to Pioneer. He said the driving simulator is an innovative and effective way to teach inexperienced drivers about the dangers of distracted driving.

“Because its a simulation, it can be a bit fun,” Thomas said. “But most importantly, it’s a great tool to learn what can happen while driving and texting without anyone actually getting hurt.”

The program will consist of a 45-minute instructional learning experience, putting two participants at a time behind the wheel of the simulator. Using simulations developed by the University of Massachusetts Amherst’s College of Engineering, participants learn to anticipate hidden hazards, react to the road and avoid accidents.

The program shows how dangerous it is to take your eyes off the road, even if it’s just for seconds, Thomas said. While driving in the simulator, students are instructed to do different things — like text — while driving.

The simulation is followed by a 20-minute online reinforcement of what the students learned.

“The program is excellent for students,” PVRS Principal Kevin Burke said.

Students who participate in the Distractology program will also receive a $15 gas card.

Arbella introduced Distractology in 2010 as one of the first programs in the country to address distracted driving. The insurance company says distracted driving is something that affects everyone, but is proving to be especially dangerous for young, inexperienced drivers.

A study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found that distraction was a factor in nearly six out of 10 moderate-to-severe teen crashes.

According to Arbella’s website, to date, more than 17,000 New England teens have taken the course. Drivers who have completed Distractology are proven to be 19 percent less likely to have an accident and 25 percent less likely to get traffic violations.

Zack DeLuca can be reached at zdeluca@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 264.




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