Third Place 2024: Betsy Perry

Betsy Perry

About Betsy

Betsy is a senior at Huntsville High School. She will be attending Auburn University to pursue a degree in Biomedical Sciences. After earning her bachelors, she plans to study Pediatrics. Her goal is to become a pediatrician. In her spare time, she enjoys dancing, painting, volunteering and babysitting.

Distracted Driving Essay

In a generation where cell phones and technology are prominent in most people’s lives, the habit of texting and driving is a concern worldwide. The temptation to answer a text as soon as it comes through is one many cannot fight off. This is because phones have been ingrained in recent generations’ brains since they could barely grasp an object. I can still remember one of the few toys I had as a kid; it was a pink phone with lip-gloss where the numbers should have been. Even though this wasn’t a functioning phone I would still make pretend calls and would “text” my friends. Many kids receive their first phone between the ages of 8-11. Due to this, as they are growing up and their brains are developing, the phone becomes a sense of security. They cannot do anything without their phone and if an authoritative figure tries to take it, they begin to resent them. This stems from the underlying issue of a phone being used as a comfort mechanism. Nowadays, when children are crying at the dinner table or are just having a bad day, their parents will stick some sort of electronic device in their faces. This habit begins to grow and, in some cases, leads to the habit of distracted driving.

Although the main form of distracted driving is texting and driving, there are other forms as well. Distracted driving is defined as the “act of driving while engaging in other activities that takes the driver’s attention off of the road”. A few specific distractions would be eating while driving, making a phone call while driving, or even using a navigation system. To cover more ground for types of distractions, the CDC has made three groups: taking eyes off the road, taking hands off the wheel, and taking mind off driving. When you are driving and you start thinking about something else, whether you realize it or not, you are more likely to get into a wreck than if you were solely thinking about the road. Keeping your mind solely on the road is one many drivers struggle with especially on long car rides. Due to this, the driver needs to take more breaks to clear their mind so they can safely reach their destination.

In a given year, 1.6 million accidents happen due to the use of a cell phone. Around 3,000 of these crashes have resulted in deaths, which accounts for nearly 8%-9% of the total fatal car accidents. When you look at the percentage, it does not seem like that big of a number, it’s less than ten. But when you think about the number of lives lost per year due to reckless driving and preventable car accidents it starts to look a lot bigger. To put it on another scale, 9 people die every day due to distracted driving. That is 9 innocent lives lost because drivers could not put their phones down for just a few minutes while they reach their destination. Texting while driving is 6 times more dangerous than driving drunk. If it is more dangerous then why isn’t no texting while driving discussed as often as no drinking and driving?

When I leave one of my classes on Friday afternoons, my teacher will yell out “Bye see y’all Monday. No drinking and driving.” How come she only says drinking? Why doesn’t she say, “No texting and driving” or “Don’t take your eyes off the roads”? Maybe she doesn’t know these statistics. Maybe she doesn’t know that it is much more dangerous to text and drive than it is to drive drunk. If the teacher doesn’t know these statistics, then I can guarantee most, if not all, the students don’t know it either. I have a proposition on how to fix this.

I know most people have had some sort of school assembly through their childhood where they discussed the harms of bullying, the danger of drugs, or even the danger of drinking, but how many people have had an assembly where they talked about distracted driving? Very few. Being a high schooler myself, I know that I normally go to these assemblies and everything the speaker says goes in one ear and out the other. This is because there are so many bodies in one room that there is no way I can connect and really understand the passion and emotion behind the story the speaker is trying to share. If they were to put me and a group of kids, roughly 30 others, into a classroom and have the speaker talk to us like we are friends and try to keep us from making the same mistakes they did or the same mistakes someone they know did, I would be more inclined to listen than I would be in a large group setting. To try to lessen the number of deaths and accidents inflicted due to distracted driving, I believe we should have a small group talk with each class. A speaker could come in and talk to each of the classes and educate not only the students but also the teachers on the dangers of distracted driving. One thing
the speaker should take into note before beginning is that high school kids don’t like to be criticized. They are more willing to listen and learn if the speaker is understanding about where they are coming from and how they have been raised. When students are able to connect with the speaker and learn from them, they become more conscious about their habits and try to break them.

In my personal life, there have been two incidents where people I know got into a wreck due to distracted driving. The most recent one was my mom being rear-ended on her way home from work at a stop sign. The lady that hit her took her eyes off the road for a few seconds to find something in her passenger seat and didn’t realize how close to my mom she was. When she finally looked up it was too late, and she had already hit my mom. Thankfully no one was hurt and there were only minor damages, but it was still an accident that could have been completely avoided. The best way for us as a community to help end the distracted driving epidemic that has grown in recent years is to become more educated.