The Distractology Van Finally Makes it to Whittier

The Distractology Van distracted driving simulator (courtesy photo)

Students at the Whittier School learned about distracted driving recently through the use of a “Distractology van.” Similar to a video game, the van features several simulations, all designed to raise participants’ awareness of the many distractions that can occur while driving.

School Resource Officer Jamie Landry brought the Distractology van to Whittier. “Kids are easily distracted behind the wheel with the radio, food and cell phones,” he said. “This program shows them what can happen in a split second if they’re not paying attention.”

Students using the 45-minute simulation encounter obstructed intersections, changes in speed and other distracted drivers. Students were even told to text on their phone or change radio stations while continuing to drive, often at simulated speeds of 55 mph.

Those who participated called it “scary” and “eye-opening.”

“I kept crashing and hitting things,” said Sara Tashijian.

The National Occupant Protection Use Survey reports that at any given time, there are 660,000 distracted drivers on the road. To date, drivers who complete the Distractology course are proven to be 19 percent less likely to be involved in accidents and 25 percent less likely to get traffic violations, according to the report.

It took four years to get the van to the Whittier school. This popular program was launched by Arbella Insurance Charitable Foundation nine years ago and has a long waiting list of New England high schools to visit. Fred C. Church Insurance of Haverhill sponsored the event.