2nd Place Winner Bethaney Jackson

Harvest, AL

I am currently a high school senior who has an interest in studying biology at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. I wish to become a physician and become the first doctor in my family. I have always possessed a love for learning and exploring new ideas and topics.

A simple distraction is all it takes to change someone’s life forever. When a small pebble is tossed into a lake, the ripples seem to go on forever. A short moment of distracted driving can carry a lifelong ripple in a family’s life. Texting and driving has become far too prevalent in both our community and in this nation, and has contributed to both minor and serious automobile accidents that could had easily been prevented. People have had their lives destroyed or taken from them as a result of texting while driving. In a year in the US, 4,015 teen lives will end too soon as a result of texting while driving. We as a community should endeavor to spread awareness to the public about the dangers of texting a driving in a manner that resonates both logically and practically with young drivers. People need to become enlightened and truly learn the seriousness of texting while driving. Life is too precious of a gift to be taken for granted.

Driving requires the driver’s full attention at all times. Texting takes up concentration and attention that should be put into safely abiding by traffic safety standards and using common sense. When a person texts while driving, he or she most likely does not understand what type of danger he or she is putting on passengers in the car, other drivers, pedestrians, or on him or herself. Texting while driving is claimed to be about 6 times more likely to cause an accident than drunk driving. To put this shocking figure in perspective, in a day, 660,000 drivers in the US will use their phones while driving. With these high figures, just about anyone on the road at a given moment could fall victim to the careless actions of someone who is attempting to operate a 3 or 4,000 pound vehicle and type and send a message. The life and safety of a person should be more important than sending a message. A small distraction is all it takes to divert the driver’s attention and jeopardize their and possibly others’ safety. Sending a text may seem quick and may only last a few second but within those seconds, someone might unexpectedly run a red light, and boom, a crash happens. In this brief span of time, a person may drive the length of a football field without focusing their attention on the road. Drivers should use caution and give their full attention to their surroundings.

Teen drivers should especially not fall into the practice of texting while driving. Those who are less experienced drivers are already at a higher risk of getting into a car accident with this group being 3 times more likely than more experienced drivers to get in a car accident. Teens 16-19 are already in a high risk category for getting into a car accident, so the addition of texting while driving drastically increases this risk. It is estimated that 1 in 5 teen drivers involved in fatal accidents were distracted by their cell phones. It is challenging at times to learn the skills associated with being a safe driver, so it should make sense that a person would choose to not make driving while inexperienced more difficult that what it already is. Teenagers may tend to not use proper judgement and actually listen to the facts associated with the dangers of texting while driving. Teenagers who text and drive may think they are invincible and are free from experiencing the consequences of risk-taking behavior, however, isn’t that the mindset that has contributed to the growing number of car wrecks that could had easily been prevented?

To combat the problem of texting while driving among teens, it would be best that the community work to ingrain the message that texting while driving can lead to fatal, life-changing car wrecks that may change a person’s life forever, and that these devastating events could easily been avoided. Just like we teach young children to “stop, drop, and roll” if they get caught on fire, we should instill the message of “don’t, it can wait” in regard to being tempted to text and drive. Driver safety is essentially life safety and should carry the same magnitude as it. Time should be devoted in schools to spending more time on the topic of texting and driving. Teens who text and drive may think that they are invincible and will not get in a wreck. We should focus on combatting this mindset and open teens’ minds to the reality of their actions. The community can help health teachers and driver’s education teachers address the topic of texting while driving and have speakers come to these classes to speak with the students. We should make the message seem more real and not like a plot to merely scare teenagers. Teachers could encourage students to share first-hand accounts of experiences with texting and driving and let them have discussions on the subject. Teens like to have their voices heard and stand as champions for good causes. By encouraging a more in-depth exploration of the realities of texting and driving statistics, this will allow these facts to be used to their full potential and more successfully drive home the message that these numbers were meant to convey.

The community could also help sponsor events at schools and facilities where teenagers and their parents can learn about the dangers of texting while driving and possibly have people who have been in accidents involving texting while driving testify of the reality of the problem. Teens can help be involved in helping create public service announcements in the form of posters, ads, short movies, and photographs. Teens who are involved in the cause may encourage other fellow classmates and friends to think twice about choosing to text and drive. Parents can become involved as well and take the initiative to talk to their children about driver safety and discuss concerns about the teenager’s habits and behaviors while driving. Parental involvement can act as a means of enforcing the message and ensuring the safety of these young drivers. Teens and their parents can chat about rules when the teen is behind the wheel and may take measures to download apps that can prevent the teen from texting while operating a car.

Teens will also be less likely to text and drive if they know that they run the risk of getting fined for doing it. In the state of Alabama, the fine texting and driving is set too low, with the first offensive being a meager $25 fine. 25 dollars is a laughable sum of money to be used to punish offenders and should be raised to a higher price. Fines should carry more weight in order to be used as a suitable punishment for putting the lives of other motorists in danger.

As a community, we should become more involved in shaping the discussion of this topic within schools, families, and other groups. We should follow the proverb “it takes a village to raise a child,” and take action to combat the issue of texting while driving among young adults. Our community should actively seek to enlighten the minds of young drivers about the dangers of texting and driving in a way that changes the way they see the act. We need to stress the importance of ensuring that our roads stay safe so that unavoidable accidents and unneeded heartbreak and distress can be avoided.

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