Third Place 2022: Zoe Mueller

third place winner Zoe Mueller

About Zoe

Senior at James Clemens High School. She will attend Auburn University to pursue a degree in Graphic Design. Safe driving is very important to her because she is the oldest of four siblings and is often responsible for providing rides to friends and family.

Distracted Driving Essay

“Distracted driving is a disease that’s gripping the nation, more powerful and potentially deadly than ever due to the evolution of technology. By pressing send instead of pressing the brakes, populations of people, particularly students, find themselves in accidents that, if not fatal, leave them crippled permanently. The onslaught of notifications on one’s phone, as well as the addictive properties they carry, only add to the temptation of the screen. And notifications are, without a doubt, addictive – a study from the University of Melbourne believes that this is due to the endless social stimuli within notifications activating the dopamine in our brains, bringing a rush of pleasure that’s easy to become attached to. This rings true particularly for those of the population that don’t know a world without smartphones. A generation raised alongside tech, practically as a sibling, members of Generation Z have extensive issues with putting down the device. According to drivers education site Aceable, millennial and Gen Z drivers are 16% more likely to use their phone while driving compared to older generations, and 32% more likely to actively blame their distraction on the device. This opens up potential not only for car accidents, but for legal trouble. Now more than ever police are on a rigid watch for distracted drivers, and as previously stated, millennial and Gen Z’s increased use of smartphones on-the-go makes them more susceptible to being pulled over. In fact, Boomer and Gen X drivers are 62% less likely to be pulled over for distracted driving due to the sheer amount of younger drivers exercising bad habits on the road. Additionally, as any long-time driver can attest to, nobody looks forward to getting a ticket. As the inheritors of tomorrow, it’s important that these citizens learn to practice safe driving, and put down the phone when they pick up the keys. So how does America, as a nation, take the wheel from technology? The answer may lie in communication.

Parents and teachers, as well as law enforcement officers that catch distracted drivers in the act, can help pave the way for safer roads by promoting good behaviors rather than reprimanding youth for their slipup. Speaking on teenage drivers specifically, students are more likely to reform their behavior when given a better alternative instead of discipline without solution. While distracted driving is regarded nationally as a huge issue, it is unfortunately often glossed over in the education of young drivers, often dismissed with a “don’t text and drive” rather than any real boundaries being set. Parents, as a population, are more likely to see the problems in their teenagers behaviors, when in contrast, teenagers are more likely to respond actively to positive feedback. By setting a positive example for their children, parents not only protect their kids from future distracted driving but prevent any accidents of their own caused by a text or call. Furthermore, providing tips and tricks on staying focused in the car builds a solid foundation for students to develop their own safe and responsible driving habits. While some might jump directly to hands-free options for drivers, such as a Bluetooth connection to their car, this doesn’t work either – the presence of a screen or message to be sent still provides a distraction to the driver that keeps them from focusing on the road. Instead, a parent might tell their teen to put their phone in an out-of-reach spot when driving, such as the backseat or glove compartment. Even the trunk or seat underside is preferable to directly next to the driver, where USB plugs and seemingly handy charging cables call drivers to keep their devices. Out of sight is out of mind, and any texting or emails can be sent after the car is in a parked and stopped position. Music can be decided on before starting ignition, and any musical changes after that can be made on the radio. Better yet, teens can put their phones on silent before even turning the key, or download an app to restrict their phone while driving, preventing those pesky notifications from tempting them during the drive. If a call or text really needs to be addressed, students can easily pull over, either on the side of the road or in a parking lot, and bring the car to a full and complete stop before opening their apps. There is no situation where a notification is worth risking the safety of everyone on the street.

With the development of new technology comes the evolution of new challenges – distracted driving being one of these concerns. On top of texting and driving, several other hazards to the driver are present: driving under influence, falling asleep on the road, and medical emergencies at the wheel being some of them. Even eating while in drive provides its fair share of dangers, such as not paying attention to the car and even choking and losing control of the vehicle – never a good situation to be in. As one of the big “triple threats”, the other two being eating while driving and reaching for items, distracted driving takes a driver’s attention not only visually but also requires removal of hands from the wheel and the removal of the mind from driving, ultimately leading to the complete disconnect of a driver from the road. The amount of injuries these types of crashes cause is not to be underestimated, either – multiple studies show that, in addition to making up around a quarter of car crashes annually, distracted driving wrecks claim over three thousand lives each year. The lives of these victims are not worth the early upload of a text or tweet, and can’t be restored with the push of a button – these people are gone forever, killed by distracted driving, and nothing can bring them back. Society can only push forward to reduce the number of cases similar to theirs, and educate the masses on how to drive safely. Putting one’s phone away at the start of a drive may make them miss a call, but it is well worth the alternative of missing a friend. Calls can be returned.”

Works Cited:

  • “Distracted Driving.” NHTSA,
  • Accessed 12 Apr. 2022.
  • “Do You Know the Three Types of Distracted Driving?” Turner & Sackett Law Offices, 5 Aug. 2020, cted-drivin.
  • editorial staff. “Understanding Your Teen’s Emotional Health.” Familydoctor.Org, 1 Oct. 2020, %20of %20teens%20often%20find,respond%20better%20to%20positive%20feedb ack.
  • Siska, Adhe. “Why I Can’t Stop Scrolling My Social Media? – Scientific Scribbles.” Scientific Scribbles, University of Melbourne, 28 Sept. 2020, g-my-social-media.
  • “Millennials and Gen Z Need to Shape Up Behind the Wheel.” Aceable, Aceable, Inc., 31 Mar. 2022,