Crash Course in Distractology

Jackson Wojnjoski, Staff Writer

Before embarking on April break, students at the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School (MVRHS) were invited to participate in Distractology, a distracted driving simulation that encourages safer driving practices by making participants aware of everyday habits that may get in the way of focused driving.

Sponsored by the Arbella Insurance Group, the Distractology simulator was brought to the school with the help of MVRHS driver education instructors Cheryl Atherton, Neal Maciel, and Mike Delis. Simulation exercises were held in the school’s front parking lot, and had a revolving door of student drivers throughout the school day.

Students with permits or licenses entered the bright orange trailer two at a time, where they filled in basic demographic information before heading to one of two simulators placed at either end of the trailer. After buckling their seat belts, students spent the next 45 minutes being tasked with driving the simulated cars through a series of scenarios — both with and without distractions that included texting, using the app Snapchat, and listening to music with an aux cord and stereo attached to the simulator. If they took their eyes off the road for too long, the drivers were greeted with the abrupt sound of their car crumpling and the sight of the scene cracking into pieces.

For some, it certainly served as a wake-up call, or at least more of an educational experience.

“Now whenever I’m changing my music, I always pull over onto a side street to do it,” said MVRHS junior Chesca Potter. “It was especially worthwhile because it included highway and city driving, which obviously we don’t get a lot of exposure to.”

Not all of the simulated crashes were caused by distracted driving, however.

“I crashed in most of the scenarios just because I wasn’t used to the simulator,” said Chesca. She did, however, say that “the distractions made it a lot harder to clearly focus on what was going on.”

Sophomore Kylie Estrella didn’t consider the simulator to be the most realistic. She said, “Some were just situations where you were meant to get into crashes. For some people it would be more like one of those wake-up calls, but for me with only my permit, I don’t find myself trying to drive with distractions in general.”

Even for those who didn’t get much educational value, however, it was still worthwhile. Participants were each given $15 gas cards, letting them know it pays to be a safe driver.