First Place 2023: Kensley Jones

Kensley Jones First Place winner

About Kensley

Senior at Lee High School. She is an advocate for safe driving at all times. Her parents taught her how to be a good role model to her siblings. Kensley plans to attend the University of Mississippi where she will pursue a double major in Psychology and Criminology. She likes to travel, cook, and dance.

Distracted Driving Essay

“With the rate of distracted driving constantly increasing, one would think that we would do a better job of watching our habits behind the wheel of a vehicle. I believe that everyone has been guilty of distracted driving. We may hear the phone vibrate, a notification might go off, or a call that we have been waiting on finally comes through. It is almost second nature to be distracted by the things going on in your vehicle. However, distracted driving is not limited to use of cell phones in the car. Driving while tired, fidgeting with controls on the dashboard, or other people in the car are contributors to distracted driving.

Use of cell phones in the car has been made much easier in newer vehicles with Bluetooth and hands-free connections. Nevertheless, using a hands-free option while driving is a possible distraction. For example, briefly looking down to change the music on your phone can cause a lifetime of pain if we are not careful. A car accident only takes the same split second as changing a playlist. I was about 10 years old but a few details about a car accident that involved my father, my sister and me. We were on our way home and leaving another neighborhood. My dad was the only car at an intersection. When he started to pull off, we were hit by a person coming right through the intersection without stopping. A lady was talking with her phone in her hand while speeding right through the intersection because she said she did not see the stop sign. Everything got worse when we all got out of our cars because the lady was still holding her phone to her ear and still talking on it. She never got off of her phone until the police arrived. I remember thinking, “that must be a really important person on the phone with her.” Fortunately, there were no injuries and we able to walk away with minor scrapes and bruises. However, the shock of the moment will always be in my mind.

We should all be proactive to ensure safety on the roads. Teen drivers and adults are all responsible for how we conduct ourselves while driving. According to a November 2017 article on the Consumer Reports website, motor vehicle companies contribute to making conscious efforts to minimize distracted driving, while making safety a top priority. A representative of Toyota spoke about the importance of customers having the best in technology and safety when driving any of their vehicles. He stated in an email, “As part of our basic design processes, Toyota considers how all the systems we integrate into our vehicles will be used in the driving environment, with the goals of helping to optimize interactions with the driver while avoiding distractions.” (Consumer Reports, 16 November 2017). Toyota along with several other motor vehicle companies appear to understand that safety is the top priority for all of their potential customers.

Controlling distracted driving is certainly a reachable goal. Consider the fact that distractions behind the wheel are not limited to cell phone usage. Loud music, irresponsible passengers, fidgeting around with other objects or just being too tired to drive are distractions that are equally dangerous. In an Accredited Schools Online article, it states, “The late nights and early mornings that are habitual for students often lead to insufficient sleep, which can easily lead to a cognitive distraction. An estimated 21 percent of fatal car crashes involve drowsy drivers and drivers age 16-24 are 80 percent more likely to be in a drowsy driving accident.” (Accredited Schools Online, 3 November 2022). My own mother once told me about a time when she was driving while pregnant with my little sister. She was coming home at night and the drain of her pregnant condition made her sleepy. Although she felt fine when she first got in the car, she quickly started feeling lethargic and began to swerve off of the road and onto a sidewalk. Thankfully she had the presence of mind stop the car, compose herself and call my father to help her get home safely. 

As a society, there are several ways we can contribute to driving safely. We can educate our communities by vocalizing our concerns at schools, places of worship, our jobs, and any place we drive to regularly. Most high schools have a driver’s education program. We can make it a requirement for anyone who is a high school student, even non-drivers because they could potentially be in the car of friend. Anyone who is a passenger should also be aware of driving safety and be aware of how they can contribute to arriving at their destination safely. One of the ways that I prevent distractions in my car is placing my phone out of the way. It stays in my bag until I get to where I am going and since I have an Apple Phone, it sets to “Do Not Disturb” when it connects to the car Bluetooth. Out of caution, my parents also limit the amount of people who can ride with me at one time. My parents also require that any passengers in my car are following safety rules of the road. We can also advocate for refresher courses for experienced drivers. Sometimes, adult drivers are busy in the hustle and bustle of getting to work, taking their children places, and other activities where they have to move quickly from place to another.  These things can be mental distractions behind the wheel of a car. Creating a platform for experienced adult drivers to revisit driving safety can be beneficial as well.  

My solutions to safe driving include keeping music low and on one station until you reach your destination. If you are too tired to drive, do not get behind the wheel. Sleepy or tired driving is just as dangerous as drunk driving. Rest or have a trusted loved one to help you. Also, remember that when it comes to your phone in the car, “out of sight, out of mind” is a good habit to drive by. Keep your phone low, make sure the “Do Not Disturb” feature is activated and place it a bag or console. The goal is for everyone to arrive to your destination safely after every drive.”



The Dangers of Driving While Distracted. (2017, November 16). Retrieved March 17, 2023, from The Dangers of Driving While Distracted – Consumer Reports

Distracted Driving in School. (2022, November 3). Retrieved March 17, 2023 from Distracted Driving In School (