Second Place 2019: Emily Lovejoy

2nd Place Photo_Emily Lovejoy

Florence, AL

Senior at Florence High School, plans to attend University of North Alabama in the fall. She enjoys studying French and was ranked in the Top 10 on the State of Alabama National French Exam in 2017.

Distracted Driving Essay

“April 26, 2018. The day no one in the city of Florence, Alabama will ever forget. 5 local high school students, all between the ages of 16 and 17, were out one night having fun just like any other group of friends. The driver of the bunch was a fairly new driver, only having her driver’s license for 3 months. Although the driver was trying to focus on the roads, her 4 friends were on their phones and playing their music very loudly. The student in the passenger seat began to video himself singing and convinced the driver to join along. Her friends began to mock her “slow driving” and were pressuring her to drive a little faster. Eventually, they ended up on a road that consisted of several steep hills. To show her friends she is not a “slow driver”, the driver got up to 80 mph going down the second hill. Suddenly, the car severely hydroplaned and ran off of the road. The car flew over a wire fence into an open field and struck a tree on the right side of the car. The students in the passenger seat, the right seat of the middle row, and the middle seat of the middle row died at the scene. These three casualties were Coby Hines, Braden Turner, and Tyler Nelson, who were excellent, athletic, and cherished students at Wilson High School.

The driver was the only conscious passenger at the scene. She immediately knew this wreck was detrimental. First, she called 911 and then proceeded to call her family. Once the authorities arrived, they had trouble retrieving the passengers that were seated on the right side of the car. Some of the boy’s injuries were so horrific that they were unrecognizable- the driver was asked if she could try to identify them. The driver and the fifth passenger were flown to different hospitals for further investigation on their injuries. The driver suffered a broken jaw, a fractured wrist, and a fractured ankle. The fifth passenger suffered a broken vertebrae and is still having operations to correct it to this day. Along with the physical injuries the two surviving passengers obtained, they also have to face emotional pain. They now live with the memory of their 3 friends and know that their death did not have to happen this early or in this manner. This has changed their lives forever.

This terrible, devastating incident opened the eyes of Florence residents and made us realize how distracted driving/peer pressure while driving can have permanent consequences. Teenagers that live around my community were shocked by this unexpected tragedy and reflected on their own driving habits. Adults, especially those with children, mourned and sympathized with the boys’ families with the thought of, “This could have been my own child”. This event united our community to help support the families of the boys as well as the students of the school the boys attended. Although an occurrence like this was new to our community, there are hundreds of cases like this across the United States. According to Edgar Snyder & Associates, in 2016, in crashes involving a distracted teen driver, 51 percent of fatalities were teens themselves. The number of distracted driving accidents that involve teenagers gradually increases each year. Distracted drivers, especially teenagers, need to learn the importance of driving safely and intently. Not only does a distracted driver put their own life at risk, they are also risking the lives of other nearby drivers. If we want to help reduce the amount of wrecks per year, there needs to be an installment of a distracted driving education program. I believe that if a teenager is presented with first-hand testimonies of distracted driving accidents, such as the one mentioned earlier, it might help them become more aware of what driving safely should be like. Seeing the distracted driver’s point of view after being involved in an accident and seeing how it affected their life can convince teenagers that they do not want to be in those circumstances. Distracted drivers can be arrested for murder, even if they did not mean for it to happen, and they will live with the guilt for the rest of their life if they kill somebody. No one wants to go to prison for a crime they didn’t mean to commit. Hearing other people’s stories and experiences will help teenagers think twice about driving and hopefully show them that no distractions lead to safer travels.

To help educate against distracted driving, we must figure out what drivers are drawn to. So, what is the most common distraction for drivers, and particularly for teenage drivers? Cell phones. They have become so much of an addiction, we can not put them down even when we need to the most. Even if the driver is not using their cell phone, another passenger in the car could be on their phone and try to get the driver to look at something on there. There needs to be a drastic reduction in cell phone use if we want to further eliminate distracted driving. Since teenagers have several different brands of cell phones, such as iPhones, Androids, etc., each brand needs to implant a driving program in each phone. This app would send a notification to a local police officer if the phone is unlocked while driving. For example, if a driver unlocks his or her phone when behind the wheel, it will send a message to a nearby stationed officer. The officer could then find where the notification came from and track it to see if that driver is still on their phone. If they are, he or she will get pulled over and be given a ticket. If this happened, it would hopefully prompt teenagers to stay off their phones because they are at risk for receiving a ticket.

Distracted driving is dangerous. If you are not fully alert when driving, you are putting yourself and everyone around you in harm’s way. Hearing about the devastation distracted driving accidents cause will help catch the public’s attention and possibly help create a safe driving environment across the country. Also, drivers are always at risk of getting a ticket by a police officer, but if they see you with a cell phone or anything captivating your attention, that will make the punishment worse. With all of this said, is distracted driving worth the risk? “