I find thinking about whether or not I have to escape the "@" character is distracting
I find this is easier with proper syntax highlighting. My arc.vim ftplugin can detect if you have (declare 'atstrings t) and, if so, highlights the escaped parts of strings. That way, you know if @ is escaped just by glancing. But I don't mean to shamelessly plug, haha. I don't use atstrings either, but my reason is far lazier: in the middle of writing code, it's less effort to just use + than it is to declare then go back and start using @s.
What other goodies does your arc.vim plugin have? Is your editor at all integrated with the arc repl? Lack of a repl that I could easily send arc code to was the reason I switched to emacs after years of using vim. These days, using emacs with viper (vim emulation mode), I don't miss vim at all.