Third Place 2020: Nevaeh Eggleston

Nevaeh Eggleston

Florence, AL

Senior at James Clemens High School, plans to attend the University of Kentucky to pursue a Bachelor’s Degree in Mathematics. After her undergraduate studies are complete, she wants to go to law school

Distracted Driving Essay

“Being born in 2002, I am considered Generation Z or “Cyber Generation”. Gen Z babies are born into an age of high-tech communication, dominated by mobile devices, social media, and constant connectivity. As Gen Z, we hold a fiercely independent streak and a deep awareness of technology as it relates to personal branding. Although slow to take to the road compared to other generations, my generation is beginning to adapt to the vehicular world. As a young girl growing up in the Rocket City, I have seen my share of developed technology, headphones, Bluetooth devices, and earbuds. Like Millennials, members of Gen Z love our smartphones and we struggle to avoid our phones while driving. It is said that as children we repeat what we see adults do around us, especially our parents. If you drive anywhere, then there is an excellent chance you have been distracted behind the wheel. We multitask in this environment so often that some distractions don’t seem problematic. Using our GPS, changing the radio station, or even getting something to drink; however, texting and driving receives the most attention because it creates cognitive, physical, and visual distractions for drivers.

According to seventy-seven percent of teens have listened to adults tell them not to text and drive, but adults continue to text and drive. As a teenager, I feel that it starts there, when you see someone of older status do something, you feel it is okay to do it too because we are a generation of seeing and doing. On my sixteenth birthday I received my first car, a baby blue 2004 Honda Accord. One evening I was headed to a friend’s birthday party but since I really didn’t know how to get to her house and I didn’t want to ask my parents to take me, I decided to do what I saw others do, plug in the address on my phone. As I pulled out of the driveway and pulled out my phone to put in the address I heard a loud bang along with a thud and my body swung forward. I really did not know what had happened at the moment so once I put the car in reverse and looked over my shoulder to back up I realized that the passenger mirror was gone. As a rush of adrenaline raced through my body, I jumped out of the car to assess if any more damage had occurred only to find the neighbor’s mailbox laying on their lawn. Even though this incident was minor vehicle and property damage, I realized that this could have been very serious. Also, my younger sister was in the car with me and I realized that I could have hurt her, but I hope that she learned from my mistake. Because I had been driving for about a week I felt that I could handle doing something else while driving.

In my three years of driving I have experienced two distractive driving incidents. According to 333,000 crashes of severe injury are caused by texting while driving. As of May 2019, 48 states have implemented the law of no texting while driving. Fiftyfive percent of Americans believe the number one threat drivers face is distracted driving, such as driving under the influence (31%), driving aggressively (8%), or speeding (3%). Phones have been cited as the top source of distraction, at 43% in accordance to the USA Today Network. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) indicates that texting while driving is especially dangerous because it combines all three types of distractions that were mentioned above; visual: taking your eyes off the road, physical: taking your hands off the wheel and cognitive: taking your mind off of driving.

As a teenager, I wonder if we need to enforce restrictions, increase vigilance by drivers, or make tech companies more accountable. My first idea that I would like to implement would be that all teenage drivers should have a probation period no matter when they receive their driver’s license for their first year. They would have to purchase a mechanism that would go into the car and could pick up frequencies that would not allow the driver to hold a phone while in the driver seat while the vehicle is in operation mode. The mechanism would also provide alerts such as increment weather, busy streets, and tell when the driver needs to reduce speeds. I would call the mechanism “The Vision” because as a driver we should have 20/20 vision to be able to see everything around us. If I would have had this device during my two incidents then I would have received a warning that the car was getting too close to another object and hopefully that would have allowed me to avoid having the accidents. Having teens use “The Vision” in their cars for one year will help them develop better habits and become a better driver.

It is about doing, not knowing! As teenagers we are taught over and over again about how to drive and what to correctly do when we get behind the wheel. We take a driver’s education class, and even have to take a road test, but nothing takes away the fact that if we can practice good driving for one entire year then those good habits that we pick up doing will transfer with us for many years to come. If the teen decides to keep the mechanism after the first year and has demonstrated good driving habits within their first year, then insurance companies would grant discounts each year until they turn 20.

As drivers, we often drive distracted and escape consequences because distractions seem to be a part of our everyday lives. Most drivers feel that nothing will happen to them until one day something does happen. We have to realize that it only takes a split second to create a lifetime of pain and suffering. As teens we need to understand that driving is a privilege and the decisions that we make behind the wheel while we are on the road have consequences. “