3rd Place Winner Behrens, Tyler

Huntsville, AL

Hi, my name is Tyler Behrens and I am a senior at Buckhorn High School. I am attending Mississippi State University after I graduate and plan on majoring in civil engineering! I come from a military background which has allowed me to experience so many wonderful opportunities. Outside of school, I enjoy exercising and giving back to my community.

Texting and Driving: A Conscious Habit that can be stopped

When you first become a licensed driver, you do everything you’re supposed to in the vehicle, take every precaution, and are always aware of your surroundings because driving a car by yourself is an immense deal. But then, you become overly comfortable and begin finding it easier and easier to search for time to pick up your phone to answer just a simple text or find your favorite song. But by picking up the phone and unlocking it, your concentration is on the phone, not the road. A text message doesn’t hold the same value as a human life but by being distracted by the phone you’re allowing the phone to mean more than your life. Texting and driving is a conscious decision that almost every driver make on a daily basis, as a matter of fact- 660,000 drivers are attempting to use their phones while behind the wheel of an automobile every day. In 2014, 3,179 people were killed and an estimated 431,000 people were injured in distraction-affected crashes. That’s almost 8 people killed and 1,180 people injured every day. Distractions are easy to avoid and get rid of; people don’t have to keep putting their lives on the line just to prove to others they’re ok by sending a small “I’m on my way” text. It takes more than one person to change a statistic, so by promoting simple solutions to this deadly problem, together, we can end the texting and driving trend.

There are several ways to lessen and possibly even stop the practice of distracted driving. On average a shocking 69% of Americans admit to using their cell phones while behind the wheel. In order to lower that percentage, lawmakers are taking notice of the serious amount of people possessing the habit along with finding ways to prevent it, and the law is starting to catch up with the jeopardies of new technology. There is no federal law banning the terrible habit but 41 states and the District of Columbia have laws against texting and driving. President Obama also issued an executive order stopping federal employees from texting while driving government vehicles. With the input from lawmakers, people become very aware of how serious the issue is and could be ticketed for their actions along with a raise in their insurance premiums. Teenagers are equally if not more aware of their conscience decision about picking up phones behind the wheel because not only would they have to deal with the pain of a ticket but there’s also the agonizing moment of telling their parents about their ticket. In consort with the cops keeping a look-out for texters behind the wheel, there are numerous billboard or radio commercials nationwide that broadcast “send it and you’ll spend it” allowing room for open interpretation of the consequences of texting and driving to help drivers make that conscious decision of not letting technology distract them while on the road. The government has done their part in making the roads safer for future drivers to come, but it’s not just their problem, it’s ours too, as drivers, to be responsible for our actions.

For teenage drivers, including myself, it’s crucial to acknowledge how attached we are to our technology and how preoccupied we become when we use it. An AAA poll suggested that 94% of teen drivers acknowledge the dangers of texting and driving, but surprisingly 35% admitted to doing it anyway. It’s proven that teen drivers are 4 times more likely than adults to get into car crashes when texting on a cell phone. Because of this; on average, 11 teenagers die every day because of distracted driving. It’s also highly likely that there’s always more than one passenger in the car and a teen driver with only one additional passenger doubles the risk of getting into a fatal car accident. Teens are 5 times as likely to get involved in a fatal accident with two or more passengers in the car. There are very simple actions to take before putting the car in drive and taking off to whatever destination that may lie ahead. Drivers can send those “I’m on my way” texts before actually leaving and then put their phone away in places hard to reach while the vehicle is in motion like the glove compartment, the center console, or even a purse in the back seat. If there are passengers in the car, the passengers can speak up and voice the troubles of texting and driving but just saying something as little as “Can I hold your phone while you drive?” But as technology becomes more advanced and it becomes harder to do any daily task without a cell phone, there are apps that will block incoming texts, calls, or notifications while driving. Apps like Cellcontrol, Drive Safe Mode, and Live2Txt all block notifications from popping up on your phone while behind the wheel. Other apps such as SafeDrive actually reward safe drivers! Actions as mild as these can save many lives and can end texting and driving.

Text messaging has become a vital part of life for most people in the U.S. In 2013, more than 153 billion text messages were transmitted in this country. While it’s important to keep the people in your life updated about where you are going or where you are at, it’s equally important to put your phone away while you’re behind the wheel. By just searching for your phone, you take your eyes off the road for 5 seconds, putting you, along with everyone else on the road in danger for 5 seconds or potentially more. Distracted driving is a choice a person makes and people can make the decision to keep the roads safe. Accidents happen, I know, I’ve had one; but, fatal accidents caused by texting while driving don’t have to happen. If people come together, and decide against texting and driving, no one has to suffer from the gruesome and painful results that come with the choice of distracted driving.

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