Second Place 2023: Evan Barnett

Barnett Evan Scholarship

About Evan

Senior at Grissom High School. He plans to pursue a degree in Biology at Birmingham-Southern College. Evan has been part of the Huntsville Swim Association for 11 years. In addition to swimming, he enjoys comic books and creative activities such as drawing.

Distracted Driving Essay

“The Dangers of Texting and Driving And How We Can Prevent It

Imagine, if you will, you’re behind the wheel of your car, you’ve been tasked by your family to
pick up groceries from the store. As you’re driving down the road, the phone you’ve so
carelessly left in your lap begins to ding. Anxious to see who’s texted you, you take your eyes off
the road for a mere moment to read the screen. Captivated by the message you’ve just received,
you’ve allowed yourself to become victim to one of the most fatal mistakes while behind the
wheel of a car, the trance only being broken by the crashing and scraping of metal. You’ve fallen
victim to texting and driving.

In this new day and age of technology, with touch screen cell phones, tablets, and laptops,
communication has become faster and much more convenient. You no longer have to spend
several minutes pressing the same buttons over and over again, and can now send text messages
to your friends, family, and other loved ones in the blink of an eye. However, along with this
newfound convenience, it has become very easy for our minds to be captured and distracted by
the ease and entertainment that our devices hold for us. So much so that this convenience of
technology has become one of the most dangerous things in our country today, more specifically
texting while in control or behind the wheel of a vehicle. Texting and driving has become one of
the easiest things for us to do as a result of convenience in our technology, as well as very
tempting to do so. The quick responses in text messages that we’ve become so used to almost
prompt us to respond immediately to anyone the second we hear our phone buzz or ding. But the
second we take our eyes off the road, we are placed in immediate danger and are putting
ourselves at risk of injury or even death. Over 400 deaths caused by texting and driving have
been estimated yearly. When we look down at our phones to respond to a message while driving
it takes an average of around 5 seconds, and no matter how many people claim to be able to
multitask and text while still paying attention to the road, this isn’t true. Studies on the human
brain have shown that it isn’t possible for our brains to focus on two tasks at the same time,
which is how many individuals believe multitasking works. Our brains, however, only have the
capacity to rapidly switch between the two or several tasks, making multitasking almost a
complete myth. This same functioning of our brains comes into play during those 5 seconds that
we look down at our phones while driving, completely shifting our brain’s focus off the road and
onto the phone, taking away our sights, senses, and direction away from the road and making
those 5 seconds about the equivalent of closing our eyes for the same amount of time and driving
almost the full length of a football field. In that time we have no sight or attention directed
towards traffic lights, the tail lights of other cars, stop signs, yield signs, construction signs,
railroad crossings, sharp turn signs, merge signs, the lights of emergency vehicles, and many
more indicators of traffic. In the event that it causes you to miss a red light or stop sign and drive
into oncoming traffic, miss a railroad sign and become victim to an oncoming train, miss a merge
or sharp turn sign and drive your car off the side of the road, or fail to recognize the lights of and emergency vehicle or the tail lights of the vehicle in front of you, this one distraction for 5
seconds just to respond to someone’s text message could cost you your life.

With the danger that texting and driving poses to individuals today, there are many steps
and procedures that we can take to prevent it from ever happening. In preventing texting and
driving, there are many roles that we can take as the driver, passenger, or parent to a new driver.
As the driver, we can take it upon ourselves to place our phone somewhere in our car that is out
of sight and not easily accessible. Many drivers choose to leave their phone in their lap, pocket,
or even may choose to place their phone in the center console of their car, however all of these
choices still provide easy access. Instead, as the driver you can place your phone in your
glovebox, backseat, or even your trunk until you reach your destination. If a text ever seems too
important to wait until you’ve completed your drive, you should always pull over and park to
respond. As the passenger, we should always take it upon ourselves to call someone out if they
are texting while driving, because not only are they putting their life in danger but also your own
life. When riding in the car with anyone, we can take charge by offering to read out and respond
to text messages that they receive, place their phone in one of either the glovebox, backseat, or
trunk, or simply hold onto their phone for them for the duration of the drive. Doing so will
ensure the safety of both you and the driver. As a parent to new drivers, you can explain the
dangers of texting and driving, as listed above, to your upcoming teen drivers. To take further
precaution, you can list to them the safety techniques of leaving their phone out of sight and
unattainable during their drive, or even go as far as to doing it for them and making sure their
phone is in a secure place before every drive. And sure, it may make them view you as an
overbearing parent, but when it comes down to the choice between their social status and their
life, it’s an easy choice to make. If we as drivers take it upon ourselves to enforce these rules no
matter what our role is and spread the word of the dangers of texting and driving, we as a people
can prevent the danger that causes many US citizens their lives.”