Second Place 2024: Graham Crippen

Graham Crippen

About Graham

Graham is a senior at Hazel Green High School. He plans to pursue an Aerospace Engineering degree the University of Alabama. Graham is excited to be the first person in his family to attend a large university. He enjoys playing baseball and helping his community.

Distracted Driving Essay

My name is Graham Crippen. I am a senior attending Hazel Green High School and plan to continue my education at the University of Alabama. I plan on majoring in aerospace engineering. To prepare for college, I have done my best to make the most of my school years. By consistently challenging myself and striving for excellence, I have built a solid resume of academic, athletic, and service-oriented achievement. Maintaining a 4.0 GPA and a 28 ACT and being a member of various
clubs and organizations has required time management and determination. My involvement with the National Honor Society, National Technical Honors Society, Student Ambassadors, Technical Students Association, Varsity Baseball, and Cybersecurity Team has helped me to develop teamwork and effective communication skills.

One thing my family has always been present in life is uncertainty, from my mom’s cancer diagnosis to one of my family members being killed by a drunk distracted driver. This has led to my family having a tradition that no matter how angry or aggravated we could be with each other, we always make sure to tell each other we love each other before leaving the house. This is stressed so much because when you leave home to drive somewhere. It could be your last time ever seeing someone, as something like a car crash could instantly take someone’s life away. A huge cause of crashes such as these is distracted driving. This has influenced me to consider ways that distracted driving can be prevented or lowered, especially including younger drivers. According to the Department of Transportation, Seven percent of drivers 15 to 20 years old involved in fatal crashes were reported as distracted. This age group has the largest proportion of drivers who were distracted at the time of the fatal crashes. I believe the main reason for younger drivers being distracted the most among other age groups is due to how often we are on our phones. According to Cross River therapy, two out of three teens feel anxious when they are
without their phones, and one in three students is addicted to their phones. This clearly displays the reasoning behind why people in general drive distracted, they cannot halt the urge to be on their phone while driving.

So this brings me to consider to myself what are ways that this can be prevented or at the very least, lessened. I began to think about why else people do things like drive distracted constantly, and then I came to a realization. There is little to no consequence to driving distracted. While yes, there are laws and regulations that make these actions illegal, it is extremely rare that anyone gets caught doing this. This gave me the idea that while distracted drivers could still be punished for their actions, why don’t we reward the drivers who are driving safely with no distractions? So I looked for any programs that use this, and then I found my inspiration: the allstate insurance drivewise program. This program rewards good drivers with lower insurance rates by tracking the car’s speed, sudden braking, and late-night trips. Although this is a great program, this has many faults. For example, a driver’s speed is only flagged if they are going over eighty miles per hour. This could mean that a driver could be going around seventy miles per hour in a school zone and face zero consequences. Another fault that I believe the program has is that while it tracks your cell phone usage while driving, it will notify you but not punish you. While these programs help influence safe driving, they are unable to seriously track distracted driving. There are so many other factors that influence distracted driving. This doesn’t just include cell phones but things like eating, other people, or simply not paying attention. To solve this problem I thought of a solution. A program in which a driver can have a camera facing them while they are driving, which is common in commercial vehicle drivers, and rewarding good drivers. You may ask yourselves, how is this different, as cameras facing the drivers and programs like drive wise exist? The question is answered by using one of the newest technologies available that has been breaking the belief of what the potential computers can accomplish: Artificial intelligence.

Artificial intelligence has been able to accomplish seemingly impossible tasks and it continues to improve to this day. My concept on how artificial intelligence can help promote undistracted driving is by creating a program similar to the Allstate drivewise program, but with a camera that faces the driver and uses Artificial Intelligence to monitor their driving. If a person agrees to this, they can have themselves tracked while driving and in return, receive lower insurance costs. Ai would actively monitor the person and the traffic with a dashcam recording everything the driver does. The computer technology would be able to track the driver’s eyes to ensure they are focused on the road, the person’s cell phone and if they pick it up, and other potential distractions on the driver’s side. Also, it would be able to track the flow of traffic and how the driver responds to certain events. Because even if the driver is only going sixty miles per hour while looking good on drives, they could be in a thirty-five mile per hour zone cutting through traffic and running through red lights. There are truly infinite possibilities for this creation, if potentially all cars adopted this, then things like court cases involving distracted driving would barely be a big legal issue because there would be concrete evidence on whether a driver was distracted or not.

An innovation like this would also help young drivers because it could be similar to the app life360. Parents would be able to track their children’s driving ability and if they are focused on driving. Maybe even the software would be able to clip videos of every time the children get on their phones or get distracted while driving and send them to their parents. I believe this would be extremely effective, because personally if my parents send me a video of me eating or on my phone while driving I would pass out. The fear of having their parents notified would be effective on younger people and would further influence them to drive safely.

This concludes my ideas on how we can help lower distracted driving in general and especially with newer drivers by utilizing new technology available to us, thank you for your time and consideration.