Third Place 2019: Sarah Black

3rd Place Photo_Sarah Black

Hazel Green, AL

Senior at Hazel Green High School, plans to attend Calhoun Community College in the fall before transferring to Athens State University. Her goal is to become an early childhood/elementary school teacher.

Distracted Driving Essay

“I just want to take a moment to let you all know what an exciting time you have ahead of you as you enter into high school! There will be many opportunities to join clubs, sports and attend various events. No longer will you be treated like young children, always under the constant, watchful eyes of parents and other adults. Now most of you will start to be granted a little more freedom as you grow up, mature and discover what path to take in life. One of the biggest freedoms given to you will be the privilege to drive a car. However, with freedom there are dangers, especially when driving.

Think for just a second what you have learned to keep yourself safe in the car from your mom and dad. The day that you were brought home from the hospital you were placed in a car seat and safely buckled. You were in a child restraint until legally you didn’t need one. Every ride to elementary school and every swim team practice your mom drove you to, you sat in the backseat and she made sure your seat belt was fastened. Your dad left early enough so he wouldn’t need to speed or run red lights. He made sure you had your favorite music to listen to during the ride, but never took his eyes off the road to change the channel. His cell phone remained out of reach so that he would not be tempted to text and drive. You watched carefully over the years as they drove safely, and believe it or not you have made mental notes along the way. Many of you will be preparing to get your drivers permit or license soon so listen to your mom and dad as they teach you to drive. Remember all the good driving traits they have modeled.
When the time comes that you get your driver’s license and are allowed to drive think of this scenario. Going to a Friday night football game night can have many outcomes. Which will be yours?

  • At 6pm as you are leaving your driveway you phone your best friend to let her know you are running late. Using a cell phone while driving increases your risk of being in an accident by 58%. Running late increases your chance of speeding and speeding increases your risk of being in an accident. Over 50% of all accidents are caused by speeding.
  • At 620pm you arrive at your friend’s house and pick up your best friend. Adding one passenger doubles your risk of being in an accident.
  • At 622pm you receive a text message that you read while trying to get the game. Another friend needs a ride so you hurry to pick her up, too. You type in the address in Google Maps to try to find a short cut. Adding two passengers quadruples your risk of being in accident. Texting and driving increases your risk of being in an accident by 58%. Using your phone while driving is distracted driving! Don’t forget you were speeding to make up for lost time. –At 625pm you flip through your play list on your phone to find a cool song. You guys turn it up and start to dance and sing to it in the car. Again, you were using your cell phone while driving. Talking and interacting with passengers in the car increases the risk of an accident by 57%.
  • At 640pm you guys decide to run by McDonald’s for a quick snack before the game and eat it on the way. You are almost 4 times more likely to be in an accident eating while driving.
  • At 7pm you arrive at the game SAFELY and spend the next two hours yelling and screaming for your
  • At 9pm you and your friends leave the game. It’s been a long day because you were up almost all last night studying for a huge test you wanted to ace. You can’t wait to get home to your bed. Being drowsy while driving is just like driving drunk with a blood alcohol of 0.10%!
  • At 1130pm you finally arrive home after making a few stops and dropping everyone off. Driving between the hours of 9pm and 6am are the most fatal to teens. Your risk of being in an accident is 32%, but 57% of accidents involving teens occur between 9pm and midnight.

Do you notice that the odds are stacked against you? Every time you enter your car and take your eyes, ears and focus off the road you can become a statistic. You don’t have to be another statistic. You can cut down the risk. Always wear your seatbelt, even in the parking lot at school. Don’t be tempted to check your phone. That text or phone call can wait. Place your phone in “do not disturb” so you don’t receive notifications while driving. Sign a contract with your parents. Limit the number of passengers in your car. Make a pact with your friends to arrive alive. Pull over in a parking lot if you must use your phone. Allow enough time to get to that place you are going. Know the directions before you leave. Start a club at school to raise awareness about the risks of texting and driving. Make a promise to YOURSELF above all.

My hope for you is that you are able to reach your goals and dreams, and that you reach your destination safely when driving and in life. The most memorable words your loved ones should hear and remember is making that speech at your graduation or toasting your best friend at their wedding. Your “last words” should not be the last text or phone call that you made, one that could have waited and the saddest, the last thing your friends and family remember about you.

A High School Senior that made it out ALIVE!”