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Arbella Ribbon Cutting Draws Flock of Reporters

Among the media that covered the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the newly named Arbella Insurance Group Human Performance Laboratory on December 10 were the Springfield Republican, TV stations WSHM-TV 3 and WWLP-TV 22, and radio stations WFCR and WAMC. The laboratory’s new name celebrates a recent $150,000 gift from the Arbella Insurance Foundation, the philanthropic branch of the Arbella Insurance Group (CEO John Donohue pictured). The laboratory team, led by Don Fisher, head of the Mechanical and Industrial Engineering Department, studies the factors that increase the crash risk of novice and older drivers and also develops simulation programs. To see quotes from the coverage:

As the Republican article reported:

The lab and Arbella have been collaborating for some time, said Donald L. Fisher, director of the laboratory. “Distractology 101,” Arabella’s mobile driving unit, uses simulation developed in the lab. Arbella brings that unit all around so teens can see what happens when they text and drive. “Arbella has done something extraordinary while the nation is worried about distracted driving,” Fisher said.

“Unless a driver experiences the consequences,” he or she is not going to change driving habits, Fisher said. The simulator gives them “the experiences they can’t (safely) have on the open road.”

If they crash in the simulator, they remember the experience.

The Channel 3 report started this way:

In the real world a mistake on the road can be unforgiving. But in the virtual world researchers can use that mistake as a learning tool.

"In real life we give these 16-18 year old drivers a 3,500 pound weapon," says UMass research assistant Jeff Muttart.

The new Arbella Human Performance Lab has driving simulators that put drivers in different real world situations to see how they react.

"We've shown there is a correlation between performance on a simulator and performance in real world driving and that's consistent across all age groups," says UMass research scientist Matthew Romoser.

The Channel 22 coverage was even more graphic:

John Donohue, the President and CEO of the Arbella Insurance Group, told 22 News that “It's everything from young women putting on their eye makeup to guys eating a cheese burger and a fry while they're doing 70 miles per hour and fiddling with the radio."

To get that message across, Arbella Insurance is donating $150,000 year for the next three years to the UMass Amherst Human Performance Laboratory. (December 2010)