Distractology Driving Simulator to Educate Students About the Dangers of Preoccupied Driving

After her friend’s children were injured in a car accident involving a distracted driver, Wendy Cogswell, Community Relations Officer at Phillips Academy Public Service, realized the dangers of distracted driving. In an effort to help Andover students become more aware of this safety risk, Cogswell has organized to bring Distractology, a simulator that teaches the importance of safe driving, to campus from October 13 to October 17. The driving simulation system will be located in a trailer between Samuel Phillips Hall and Morse Hall. The inside of the trailer mimics a car, with a steering wheel in front of the driver and computer screens surrounding the driver. The screens play an interactive video that is similar to a video game. “[Distractology is] a great wake-up call. I’ve taken the program myself and it’s scary. It will wake you up. It will make you understand how texting and driving can hurt you, can hurt your friends and your family,” said Cogswell. Over 500,000 crashes in the United States result from distracted drivers each year, according to the Distractology website. Cogswell worked with Arbella, the insurance company behind Distractology, to create a 30-minute session in which a trainer will guide students through the simulator. The screens will mimic situations that might occur during actual driving, like drifting into different lanes while texting or being unable to come to a sudden stop because of looking down at a cell phone. Students will be told when to use their cell phones and when to resume focus on the road. The point of the planned distraction is to demonstrate how small moments of distraction can lead to great risk. “Being an independent school, our schedule is a little different than a public school. We really had to work together with Arbella to get [Distractology] here, and we’re very lucky we have them here,” said Cogswell. Distractology is sponsored by Arbella and was created by the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.