This spring, TorHoerman Law awarded the first-ever Distracted Driving Prevention Scholarship to Daniel Giles, an outstanding young man who wrote a powerful essay on how to eliminate distracted driving from the roads. Daniel is a 2018 graduate of Belleville East High School, will be attending American University in the fall, and is eager to embrace all of the opportunities he encounters in Washinton D.C. Please join us in congratulating Daniel for his winning essay, written below.
"Sitting in the purse or pocket of each person is a deadly weapon. A weapon that, if used incorrectly, can cause the death of innocent people all over the country. The rise of cellphones, in America, has delivered an alarming problem: distracted drivers. While these devices allow users to stay connected with people around the world at all times, their addictive qualities cause some drivers to be unable to put it down. These drivers, especially teenagers and young adults, find themselves in many automobile accidents. Too often, teenagers say nothing while their friend at the wheel sends one more text or finds the correct song on the playlist. In order to save the lives of thousands each year, the culture around texting and driving must become stricter and teenagers can no longer sit idling by while their friends dance with death. The primary problem with distracted driving is that while most teens know it is dangerous to use their phones while driving, they do not appreciate the magnitude of the danger. While the media has been successful with anti-drunk driving commercials, texting and driving are much less prevalent in television commercials and mainstream media. The anti-drunk driving media campaign pushed the issue of driving under the influence of the culture of daily life. Most teenagers, already equipped with a feeling of invincibility, do not appreciate the dangers of cellphone usage while driving. According to the National Security Council statistic on the Edgar Snyder and Associates website, distracted driving causes 1.6 million automobile accidents each year (par. 4). From these accidents, over 330,000 injuries occur (par.5). Looking at these statistics, teens can realize the gravity of the situation. The fact of the matter is that distracted driving is not only dangerous but life-threatening. While some are unaware of the scale of danger surrounding distracted driving, others are afraid to ask their friends to stop. From my own experience, I know the apprehensive feeling when my friend glances down at his phone for a few seconds as we speed down the road. Sometimes I say nothing. I am afraid to seem “lame” or to put myself in that slightly embarrassing situation. I think to myself that only a few seconds will not kill us. In reality, this is completely untrue. On average, replying to a text message takes five seconds, and, if traveling fifty-five miles per hour, the car can travel over three hundred yards in that time (Edgar Snyder and Associates par. 8). Even the “quick glance” at the phone can allow the car to cover enough ground to collide with another vehicle that previously was out of sight. The other side of the danger is that a person could easily hit a pedestrian, biker, or animal and cause unthinkable damage to them. The most common cause of distracted driving, from my experience, is the changing of music. When I drive around with my friends, we utilize the time to show one another new music. The problem begins with searching for the music. The music applications on cell phones do not have the easiest layout to find the desired song. This causes the driver to stare at their phone for an extended amount of time. This time, as stated before, can cause death and destruction. While peering at their phone, the person is quite literally driving blind. While driving distracted continues to kill and injure people every day, society must find a quick way to solve this new crisis. One way to combat this dangerous practice is through a stronger anti-distracted driving media campaign. Companies, such as AT&T, already utilize television commercials to showcase the horrific scenarios that come from distracted driving. These sometimes-graphic commercials allow the public to witness these terrible occurrences. In today’s society that is desensitized to many violent or horrible images, the commercials must be able to shock the audience into fear. This media campaign must instill in the minds of teens, young adults, and others that distracted driving destroys lives every day. With this weapon of the media, the number of collisions caused by distracted driving should fall tremendously. While the commercials provide the necessary beginning to solve the problem, the applications themselves could be easier to use. Apps such as Apple Music, Pandora, and Spotify, the most common music playing apps, can be reformatted to allow people to access music easier through voice-activated controls. This voice control technology would allow drivers to change their music while looking at the road at all times. The simplest way, however, is for the people to stand up for themselves to their friends. People must be able to tell their friends to stop phone usage while driving and end the silence. Teenagers can offer to “find that song” or “text that person back” so the driver can focus on the road. This is the quickest and strongest way to improve automobile safety and end distracted driving. If people stand up for themselves and their friends, the roads will become a safer place for all people. Distracted driving remains a critical danger to every person on the road, whether they drive while using a cell phone or not. At any given time, a person sending that “quick text” can slam into an innocent person driving to work, dropping their children off at daycare, or leaving their friend’s house. The time to sit silently and watch people die every day from distracted driving is over. Through educational commercials, improvements to music applications on cell phones, and discussions with friends, the danger of driving will diminish drastically. Distracted driving truly is a killer and can only be stopped when people open their eyes to this menacing threat to America."
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