Arbella Kicks Off Second Year of Distractology 101™ Tour

Mobile Classroom and High-Tech Driving Simulations Give Teens and Other New Drivers Real-Life Lessons on Distracted Driving

QUINCY, Mass. — April 5, 2011 — Committed to changing the dangerous behavior of driving while distracted, The Arbella Insurance Group Charitable Foundation (“Arbella”) today launched the second year of the Distractology 101 tour, featuring a 36-foot-long, neon yellow mobile classroom outfitted with high-tech driving simulators to give new drivers (usually teenagers) a real-life look at the potentially disastrous effects of distracted driving.

Distracted driving is an epidemic in the U.S.: nearly 5,500 people were killed and almost half a million were injured in accidents related to distracted driving in 2009. Distracted driving accounted for 20 percent of all injury crashes during that year. People who text while driving are 23 percent more likely to be in a crash or barely avoid one. Studies have even shown that driving while distracted is equivalent to driving with a blood alcohol level of .08.

“Many new drivers aren’t getting the message about the dangers of distracted driving and that’s a real problem,” said John Donohue, chairman, president and CEO of the Arbella Insurance Group, and chairman and president of the Arbella Insurance Group Charitable Foundation. “Nearly one in three young adults text while driving, according to a recent Consumer Reports study. Our goal with Distractology 101 is to create a new generation of safe drivers who don’t think multitasking at the wheel is acceptable.”

More than 1,500 new drivers went through the Distractology 101 simulator training in 2010. Eighty-seven percent of students surveyed said the experience was effective or extremely effective and 59 percent said they would recommend the experience to a friend.

The driving simulator tour, which is two years in the making and based on Arbella-funded research conducted with the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, is designed to lead a safety movement to educate new drivers about the dangers of distracted driving and change behaviors. It will travel to select communities throughout Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island.

“During their first month on the road, novice drivers are six times more likely to be in a fatal crash than drivers with a year’s driving experience,” said Dr. Donald L. Fisher, professor and department head at the College of Engineering, University of Massachusetts at Amherst, and national expert on distracted driving. “In our lab, we have developed a program for Arbella that mimics real-life driving. Evaluations of this program suggest that it makes novice drivers substantially more likely to engage in behaviors that will help them avoid crashes. Compared with untrained novice drivers who fail to anticipate hazards 40 percent of the time, program participants fail only 10 percent of the time. That’s powerful evidence for the benefits of education.”

During the driving simulator training — Distractology 101: A Crash Course on Distracted Driving — teens and other new drivers will face a number of scenarios based on real-world examples that illustrate the dangers of distracted driving, and it will teach participants how to anticipate hidden hazards, react to the road and avoid accidents. Participants are then asked to complete the online portion of the curriculum. At www.DistractU.com, they’ll take a training lesson for reinforcement of what they learned in the classroom and make a safe driving pledge in order to complete the training.

“As Dr. Fisher often says, there is no magic bullet to prevent all crashes,” added Donohue. “But thanks to his research, we have technology right in our own backyard that can be a first step in reducing distracted driving crashes. We’re making an investment in protecting ourselves and our young drivers from the tragedies that continue to occur as a result of distracted driving. It’s part of our commitment to our customers, our agents and the communities we serve.”

Distractology 101 will teach participants everything they need to know about this new area of study: the science of distraction. It even has its own vocabulary, with buzzwords like “textident” (an accident caused by texting), “smerging” (swerving while merging) and “fishmailing” (losing control of the back of your car while emailing).

To find out when the Distractology 101 tour is coming to a community near you, log on to www.distractU.com/Tour.aspx, then sign up for the training by contacting your local participating agent.

About the Arbella Insurance Group and the Arbella Insurance Group Charitable Foundation
Established in 1988, the Arbella Insurance Group is a company with more than $600M in revenue with approximately $1B in assets, headquartered in Quincy, Massachusetts. Arbella is a customer-focused regional property and casualty insurance company, providing personal and business insurance products including car insurance, home insurance, and umbrella insurance in Massachusetts and Connecticut, and business insurance in Rhode Island and New Hampshire. Arbella Insurance Group founded the Arbella Insurance Group Charitable Foundation in 2004. The mission of the Foundation is to engage in activities and to support not-for-profit organizations that have a significant positive impact on the people and communities served by Arbella.

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For more information:

Amy McHugh
Greenough Communications
617.275.6512 or 617.981.2236 (mobile)
aerickson@greenoughcom.com

Andrea LePain
Greenough Communications
617.275.6516 or 617.894.1153 (mobile)
alepain@greenoughcom.com