Our precious 17-year-old daughter, Natalie, was killed almost one year ago in a completely preventable car crash that involved distracted driving. While there was more to this particular crash than simply being distracted, being distracted could have been a factor. April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month. I want to share with you a paper that my 14-year-old daughter, Mary, wrote for her college dual enrollment class on texting while driving. She had wanted to focus on distracted driving, but statistics for such a broad topic are not readily available.
Texting is usually seen as the biggest source of distracted driving, however, anything that takes your focus and vision off of the road is distracted driving. True accidents are caused by events outside of your control, for example, a deer running out in front of you. I would venture to say that most accidents are preventable if ALL drivers would follow the rules of the road and PAY ATTENTION.
This is a photo of the accident that claimed our Natalie’s life. She worked for a year to save up her money to purchase this yellow car.
Mary earned an A on this paper and I’m incredibly proud of her writing ability. I’m pleased to share it with you today.
A Text or a Life: Which is Worth More to You?
There have been many technological advances since the 1990’s, but perhaps the most popular and widely used invention is the cell phone with text-messaging capabilities. While this is an amazing innovation for keeping in touch and has certainly made life easier, there are some drastic drawbacks to this relatively new device. The cell phone that allows teens to call home before leaving school or work is the same phone that causes them to become distracted when used while driving. Distracted driving is rapidly becoming one of the most dangerous epidemics of our time, with an estimated 660,000 people using their phone while driving during the day, many of which are causing accidents resulting in property damage, injury, and loss of life.
What is distracted driving?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention separates it into three categories: visual, which means taking your eyes off the road; manual, which means taking your hand(s) off the wheel; and cognitive, which means taking your mind off driving. Texting while driving is present in all three categories. There are countless different actions that can cause you to lose focus, ranging from talking to other passengers to just staring off into space, but often the most dangerous one comes from using a cell phone.
While any driver can become distracted, the rate is significantly higher for teens. This age range is comprised of mostly new and inexperienced drivers, who are not only more likely to text while driving, but also more likely to speed and to not wear a seatbelt. These actions coupled together make teenagers more susceptible to crashes resulting in injury or death. It is well-known that people under the age of twenty are much more impressionable than those higher in age and it is of utmost importance that these new drivers understand the dangerous and often fatal consequences of taking their eyes off the road. Do not let this become a habit. Just because last time that one text didn’t cause a car crash, doesn’t mean the next one won’t.
Distracted Driving- imagine driving an entire mile without looking at the road!
While most teenagers understand some of the dangers that come from texting and driving, they most likely don’t recognize the severity of this issue. You may think a quick text won’t mean anything and that your eyes will be back on the road in just a few seconds. That may be true, but consider this: the average vehicle on the road today weighs over four thousand pounds, and with each year automobile manufacturers pack on even more weight than before. Now taking this same four-thousand-pound vehicle traveling at a speed of fifty-five miles per hour, this vehicle will cover the length of a whole football field in only five seconds. Being distracted by a text, email alert, phone call, etc. for only five seconds means that the driver has traveled one hundred twenty yards blindly. Now imagine being distracted for just one minute. You’ve now traveled nearly an entire mile.
Lawmakers are taking the risks and consequences of distracted driving seriously and have begun implementing laws that forbid texting while driving. As of July 2017, forty-seven states, D.C., Virgin Islands, Guam, and Puerto Rico all have laws prohibiting texting and driving for drivers of all ages. Penalties for texting and driving in these states and territories differ greatly, from California’s low penalty of twenty dollars to Utah’s seven-hundred-fifty dollars for a first offense, plus in some states points are assessed to your license, potentially raising insurance costs. Subsequent offenses result in larger fines, possible suspension of license, and even jail time.
The far-reaching impact of distracted driving cannot be measured.
If the possibility of fines and losing your license doesn’t scare you, this next statistic certainly should. In 2015 alone, there were 3,477 reported deaths from distracted driving, as well as 391,000 people injured. These deaths and injuries led to physical property damage, outrageous medical costs, increases in insurance rates, and a severe emotional toll on not only the drivers themselves but also their friends and loved ones. The far-reaching impact of distracted driving cannot be measured.
Although texting and driving is still a massive problem, there have been many prominent businesses urging for a change in the stupefying number of distracted drivers on the road today. Two of the largest names in the cell phone industry, AT&T® and Apple®, are large advocates for the prevention of distracted driving. In 2010, AT&T® released the campaign entitled “It Can Wait™”, which is a movement encouraging drivers to stay focused on the road and warn them of the dangers that come from reading or answering a text while the car is in motion. They offer an online pledge you can take to help remind you to never text and drive, as well as a virtual simulation of texting and driving which includes a devastating end to further convince you to focus on the road.
Apple® is also doing their part with their latest operating system update released in September 2017. This update includes a feature called “Do Not Disturb While Driving,” which automatically enables itself when it senses that the vehicle is in motion. This feature blocks incoming notifications and phone calls from making sounds or appearing on the screen, limiting potential distractions. It also auto-replies to texts with a message stating that the recipient is driving and unable to reply.
The only one who can prevent distracted driving is the driver!
While the companies listed above are helping to address the issue, ultimately the responsibility lies with the driver. Like with anything, you can have all the teachings, statistics, and encouragement in the world, but in the end, the choice is up to you. You make a choice every time you sit down in the driver’s seat: will you drive safely and pay attention, or will you drive recklessly and endanger not only yourself but all those around you as well? There is absolutely nothing that is in that text that is worth your or someone else’s life.
When you are behind the wheel, just simply drive. Before you leave, eat your meal, do your personal grooming, and send any messages that need to be sent. Always keep in mind that you are piloting a two-ton vehicle; this is not the time for multitasking. Utilize the “Do Not Disturb” or silent setting that the vast majority of cell phones have. If you absolutely need to call or text someone, pull off onto the shoulder of the road. It may take you a few extra minutes, but in the end, it is unquestionably worth it. Remember this the next time you’re about to text while driving: that quick text may not take you much time, but to someone else, it could take their life.
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