First Place 2022: Winton Williams

1st place winner Winton Williams

About Winton

Senior at Huntsville High School. Winton will be attending Auburn University this fall where he plans to pursue a degree in Electrical Engineering. He is passionate about math, music and helping people.

Distracted Driving Essay

“I have experienced the negative effects of distracted driving first-hand. Around Christmas of 2019, my family was driving home from a seasonal event when we came up to a four-way intersection with a green light, as we passed through the intersection a lady who was not paying attention attempted to turn across the intersection in front of our car. We later discovered that the woman was on her phone using snapchat as she hit us. This incident caused huge problems for our family because it was a big price that we had to pay because of another person’s terrible decision. When we were hit, my brother was too stunned to speak for several minutes, and the hearing was blown out of my right ear for three days. This situation was only made worse by the loss of our father during my freshman year, leaving us with already existing financial problems. Distracted driving is a huge problem because it is the number one cause of accidents and even deaths on the road. There are various situations that fall under distracted driving: texting while driving, drunk driving, driving with too many passengers. All the different types of distracted driving have varying levels of influence but the most common, and the one that is most thought of when someone brings up the topic of “distracted driving”, is use of mobile devices while driving. Phones are the easiest method of distraction for drivers of all ages, whether that be teenagers who are attached to their phones, students with lots of classes, adults with jobs, all of which get information from their phones. It is so easy for all types of drivers to want to look at their phone and check up on their notifications at every chance during their day, including while driving. Once a person gets in the habit of using their phones while driving, it is very easy for them to continue this habit until they are given a reason to stop.

When it comes to educating the greater community about the effects of distracted driving the best strategies would be advertisements and campaigns. In this case, advertisements would be messages from either schools, radio station, or even the local government that would be often heard and would act as reminders of the importance of safe driving. I believe that there is not enough mention of safe driving on the radio; if radio stations more frequently advertised safe driving within the commercials that are played on air, then it would be easier for possible distracted drivers to be discouraged by the messages. Schools could also make announcements about safe driving so that younger students could learn about the dangers of distracted driving in as early as middle school. As far as campaigns go, there have been many good campaigns over the years to stop things like texting and driving and driving without a seatbelt, but in my mind, there could be more of these that are broadcast to more people. There have been several good campaigns to stop distracted driving, and the most recognizable among them include signs found on interstates and signs along important roads explaining the importance of not using a phone while driving. In 2009, the US Department of Transportation launched a campaign in order to reduce the number and therefore effects of distracted drivers; this plan had to overcome a tough obstacle due to how hard it is to stop most of the distracted driving. There have also been many efforts taken by phone producers and software developers to limit distracted driving. Many phones now have a “Do Not Disturb” mode for when the phone is detected to be travelling at a certain speed that is like that of a car. This feature blocks all notifications and makes it extremely challenging for would-be distracted drivers to access their devices while on the road. I think this type of prevention for distracted driving is the most effective out of all the methods that have been created; however, I do believe there is one issue: incentive. It is very easy for this mode to be disabled within the settings of the phone, that means only those who are truly willing to achieve safe driving will choose to enable this feature. An incentive for keeping this type of mode constantly enabled would reduce the number of accidents because there would be less distracted drivers.

Ultimately my solution to distracted driving would be an app that directly combats distracted driving while also educating the younger generations about traffic safety. The app would function as a study tool for early drivers and those who have not yet obtained their drivers permit or drivers’ license. The app would have many questions about driving rules, some even being real questions from local permit and drivers’ tests. The main function of the app would be its safe driving feature which automatically works whenever the app is enabled on the phone. The app would use similar features to those of the “Do Not Disturb” mode and would track the speed of the phone and only activate when the phone moves at the speed of a car. Once the function was activated it would disable the face scan feature on iPhones and before the user could access apps, it would ask them a multiple-choice question about traffic safety. The goal of these features is to increase the time and effort that would be required to access the phone for those who are actively driving. It would make access for those focused on driving more difficult and it would not be too hard to access the phone for people who were passengers. The addition of traffic safety questions would encourage education on various road safety topics and would therefore create more knowledgeable young drivers. The main difference between this app and the built-in “Do Not Disturb” mode is that this app would come with an incentive; the incentive would come in the form of a discount on insurance. Like many driving related classes that provide a similar discount, a discount would be provided for those who can prove that they have used the app for over a year. An app like this could drastically reduce the amount of distracted drivers, especially if the app is promoted by schools or even local DMVs. With an increase in advertisements, the growth of certain campaigns, or even the introduction of a new app, there will surely be a decrease in accidents and deaths related to distracted driving.”