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Simulator teaches students dangers of distracted driving

Dec. 27, 2013
<b>Students at West Springfield High School participated in “Distractology 101: A Crash Course on Distracted Driving” from Dec. 17 to 21. The program was sponsored by Ormsby Insurance Agency and was open to all students.</b><br>Reminder Publications photo by Carley Dangona

Students at West Springfield High School participated in “Distractology 101: A Crash Course on Distracted Driving” from Dec. 17 to 21. The program was sponsored by Ormsby Insurance Agency and was open to all students.
Reminder Publications photo by Carley Dangona

By Carley Dangona


WEST SPRINGFIELD – West Springfield High School is the most recent school to host a driving course that teaches students the inherent danger of texting and driving.

From Dec. 17 to 21, Ormsby Insurance Agency sponsored “Distractology 101: A Crash Course on Distracted Driving,” an interactive program developed by the Arbella Insurance Foundation that features a 36-foot-long, neon-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.

“In just three years Arbella’s Distractology 101 campaign has made enormous strides in terms of combating distracted driving,” John Weiss, president of Ormsby Insurance Agency, said. “The program’s mission is quite simple: to educate young drivers of the dangers of distracted driving and ultimately save the lives of teens living in communities such as West Springfield.”

He continued, “Research has indicated that this type of real life stimulation and education can truly help to change dangerous behavior and we at Ormsby Insurance Agency are proud to support this important mission.”

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, more than 800,000 drivers are using a hand-held cell phone at any given moment but only 57 percent recognize it as a serious threat to their safety. Sending or receiving a text takes a driver's eyes off the road for an average of 4.6 seconds, the equivalent of driving the length of an entire football field at 55 mph, blind.

“This is a wonderful thing Arbella does. It’s been a solid booked week. This opportunity was offered to every student regardless of whether they are an Ormsby client or not. It’s nice to give back to the community,” Weiss stated. The program can cost up to $200, but was offered free of charge to students.

Weiss tried the simulator firsthand and said it provided lifelike scenarios. “It’s better to crash in the simulation rather than crash in the real world,” he said, adding that it helps students learn what to do in emergency situations and to understand their role even if an accident isn’t their fault,” he said.

Weiss added the course teaches students to be aware of their surroundings and that one’s reaction time slows down when distracted by texting. Statistically, he said, students are better drivers after undergoing the course. Some insurance agencies such as Ormsby offer a discount for taking the class.

Topher Paone has served as a Distractology tour instructor for three years. “I was interested in the job because I thought it was a good idea to talk to kids about distracted driving. [It was an opportunity] to make a difference,” he said.

Participants also complete the online portion of the curriculum at www.distractu.com and make a safe-driving pledge in order to complete the training. As a reward for taking part, each student is given a $15 gas card as well.

Weiss thanked the school staff or its assistance and cooperation in offering the course.

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