Second Place 2018: John Washington

john washington

Meridianville, AL

I am pursuing a business marketing degree at UAB. I currently attend Hazel Green High School. I am in the National Honor Society, Trojan Ambassador, and chess club.

Distracted Driving

Distracted driving is a highly serious matter that needs to be addressed. Many drivers behind the wheel are distracted by their phone in some capacity whether it be texting, phone calling, or notification checking which has led to a higher number of fatal crashes. Without any adjustments or meditated precautions, this number unfortunately will continue to trend upwards as phone usage of all ages increases over the years. Consequently, drivers need to be greater educated about the realistic threat of distracted driving and furthermore take the steps that can help alleviate the problem.

The first and most effective way I believe to educate the community is to continue to emphasize the staggering number of accidents and create the personal story videos. I think there are two main reasons that block drivers’ minds from understanding despite the dangers of distracted driving. The first reason is that many have heard the stories and seen the numbers, but they would rather not let such things sink in as they truly should because it would likely contribute to them possibly feeling frightened, vulnerable, or even threatened. The second reason is that many people have this common idea regarding many situations, not just driving related, that “it won’t happen to me” which allows them to live in a fantasy haven because they feel no potential harm will come their way. However, I believe this is the wrong mindset to have and that the community needs to feel uncomfortable for real change and adjustments to be made. When you are relaying information and statistics on distracted driving to the community, the goal is not to force them into a state of anxiety and/or distress; the purpose of educating the community is to allow them to see the problem more vividly and build an appropriate fear for the issue which will lend itself to creating a greater alarm in drivers’ minds and heighten the awareness. Additionally, another effective way to educate the people is to challenge family and friends to hold each other accountable. This will encourage people to reinforce the real possibility of harm that comes with distracted driving and it will cause people to feel more culpable for their actions on the road. This method similarly to the last will create a healthy purpose-seeking pressure to be placed on drivers because the topic at its very core has led to many deaths and injuries which leads to a feeling of discomfort and uneasiness. Nonetheless having people genuinely care about your driving habits and safety creates a greater sense of responsibility over what you are doing on the road which is a good thing.

Once the community has been educated and has grasped the importance of focusing on the road while driving, their attention should be directed towards the solutions as there are several practical methods and preventive measures that could be acted on immediately to reduce the risk of future accidents. The first method is to use the increasingly updated technology and software on phones as a benefit and not a confinement. Many smartphones today have voice activated features that can be used without the need for your own hands to touch the phone. This is an excellent feature as it allows you to send a text, compose an email, or make a phone call without even taking your eyes off the road. For some people, if they see a notification of any kind they just must check their phone to see what it is because if they do not, it bothers them. I can understand this predicament as well because I personally like to make sure I have responded to all the notifications on my phone in a timely manner. However, there is technology that can be a major benefit in this situation as well. There are apps called LifeSaver and AT&T DriveMode with built in traits that allow the user to turn off phone calls and text messages while on the road and will allow for emergency calls; however, if apps such as these are seen as overbearing or too restrictive then there are still others such as the TrueMotion Family and Mojo which will track your engagement and activity on your phone while driving and will give you a report usually represented by a score. Not to say that these apps are the only four on distracted driving but that they are a few examples that help to highlight the conveniences at our fingertips. Also, some phones come with an inbuilt do not disturb feature that can be activated while driving which will notify those who are trying to contact you that you’re driving. The second method relies none on technology and all on using will power through adversity. Looking at a phone while driving in any capacity can be tempting as there are numerous things you can do on the phone. To avoid this problem one needs to either put their phone out of reaching distance in the car or simply turn their phone off. In doing this, accessing your phone becomes a burden and inconvenience that may dissuade you to use it further while driving. In many situations there may be times when you are driving with someone else, when situations such as these arrive you should have the person sitting in the passenger seat answer phone calls, check messages, or change the music selection. This partnership allows you to maintain your focus on driving while reaching the people and accessing the information that you want. Lastly, if none of these methods work and the situation demands that you get on your phone in some capacity then do yourself and the people in the cars around you a favor by pulling over into a gas station or store and handling your business. No phone call or message is worth risking your life or the lives of others.

Driving is an activity that is seen as fun and relaxing to many. Many people allow their time on the road to be a place of meditation and deep thought which is perfectly fine. However, driving does require a high level of focus and attention. Allowing anything to come in the way of one’s focus on the road is at minimum self-deprecating but too many times the lives of others are affected in the worst way possible as well. A willingness to listen and to make small adjustments are all that’s needed to create a better driving experience for yourself and for others. Don’t be distracted – stay focused.