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BC High Experiences Distractology

Malcolm Herbert, Co-Editor-in-Chief

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Monday mornings in the BC High parking lot host a familiar scene every week. Driving Seniors and Juniors arrive continuously from 6:00 am, exiting their BCH bumper sticker-laden cars and trudging into the Commons, a large Dunkin Donuts coffee in hand, resistant to start another grinding week. Last Monday however, was slightly different. Amidst a parking lot full of cars, an enormous, colorful trailer stood in the corner of the lot, its juxtaposition inevitable from the army of Honda Civics to its left and right.

The van belonged to Arbella Insurance, the setting for its popular Distractology course. This year, like years prior, students were given the opportunity to partake in this important exercise, with hopes to gain new insight on driving while distracted. The premise is simple, as is the message. Two driving simulators occupy the trailer, not unlike those from racing arcade games. An instructor runs through scenarios with the students, giving them tasks to complete while driving. These tasks rarely end well for the drivers. Arbella hopes the lesson being taken away by participants is that driving while distracted is extremely dangerous, and could end in disaster, just like the simulations do.

The simulations range from texting a friend to searching for a song, and while the tasks are being completed, a hidden car, blind turn, speeding driver, sudden stop, or even massive German Shepard lurk, almost always ending in an unavoidable but devastating crash. Most students will crash close to every time, and the tasks are not meant to be completed successfully. After all, the simulations are exactly what drivers shouldn’t be doing.

I was one of the first volunteers to experience Distractology this year. I thought the experience was informative and important for drivers of any age to engage in. That being said, the system is not perfect. A very loose but also sensitive wheel accompanied by a less-than-functional braking system makes for a driving experience that isn’t completely realistic. There were numerous times when I would brake, but then wait a few seconds for the car to come to a stop, when in a real car, it would take a much shorter time to stop going at the same speed. Also, once you go through a few simulations, you know what to expect, and realize that there’s going to be a dangerous situation every time. This has a certain effect on your driving, and makes the situation less than realistic.

On the flip side, getting in accidents during the simulations is exactly the point. If it were possible for students to perform the Distractology tasks and avoid crashes, it would have the opposite effect, giving some students misguided confidence in their ability to drive with distractions. The element of surprise may leave after a couple crashes, but the situations presented are never unrealistic. While you may know something’s coming that will result in an accident, it forces you to be more mindful of situations that cause accidents like these. The simulations show all the different things that could go wrong – whether you or the other driver is at fault – when driving without your full attention. The constant crash sound effects and animated broken windshield is jarring up to the last run, and is a real-life possibility every time you answer a text or Snapchat. While many may have signed up for a $15 gas card and left unimpressed by some of the imperfections, hopefully the never-ending scenarios will serve as a reminder the next time participants are tempted to drive distracted.

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BC High Experiences Distractology