Distractology: A simulator showing why you shouldn't text and drive

NORWOOD, Mass. — Massachusetts is in the midst of a debate over whether to follow other states when it comes to hands-free mobile phone use while driving.

Governor Charlie Baker has proposed legislation that would ban drivers from handling their cell phone with anything more than a single swipe or tap.

One insurance company is among those who support the bill and is taking to the road to show new drivers just how dangerous distractions can be.

Angela Sharra, a junior in high school, just got her driver's license in November.

Many of her friends are new drivers too and she admits she’s seen more than one of them use the cell phone behind the wheel.

And in a simulator at Norwood High School, she discovered just how dangerous that distraction can be.

"It definitely [makes you feel like you're in that situation] with like the speakers next to me and all these screens. It definitely does," she said of the simulator.

The simulator gives you a real sense of how momentary distractions sneak up on you to become a serious problem.

"It’s very scary. All the comments that we hear from the students who take it, they realize how quickly things can change on the road -- like a matter of seconds," Arbella Insurance spokesperson Beverly Tangvik explained.

The Arbella Insurance Foundation created the mobile classroom 12 years ago when they noticed a significant increase in claims being filed after crashes involving texting and driving. But they’ve had to update their program -- managing playlists, Snapchatting and even Facebooking while driving have all become added distractions. %

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Tangvik says that’s a danger to drivers and to those around them.

"We do see more accidents caused by distracted driving and more pedestrian accidents now," she said.

But she claims the program they’ve developed is responsible for a 19 percent drop in accidents, and a 25 percent drop in traffic violations for those who use the simulator.

She believes this education is vital and it’s a lesson Angela Sharra says she’ll take with her on the road.

"Distractions lead to consequences," she said.

Tangvik warns that a hands-free law alone isn’t the answer. %

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She says even with two hands on the wheel, drivers can be distracted by lots of other things that take their focus off the road.

She says that’s why we all need constant reminders that driving should be our primary concern when we hit the road.