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The Winning Essay from Thomas Law Office’s Spring 2017 Scholarship

Published on Jan 19, 2017 at 1:30 pm in Distracted Driving Accident.

There is no need to text and drive just as there is no reason or excuse to drink and drive, and if statistics show that texting and driving is actually more dangerous than drinking and driving, why is it generally socially acceptable to text and drive? For as long as I can remember, I have known that drinking and driving is not acceptable. We learned about it in health class and in high school my mom told me to call her for a judgement-free, no-questions-asked ride if I became intoxicated at a party. I grew up in a world that shuns those that drink and drive yet texting and driving is relatively new and is perceived to be safer than drunk driving.

It may seem extremely harsh to punish those that text and drive the way drunk drivers are punished, but statistics prove the two are very similar in regards to causing accidents. According to statistics between the years 2005 and 2012, “the number of drunk driving fatalities per person decreased 28%. In the same time period, the percentage of people observed ‘visibly manipulating’ their phones while driving increased a staggering 650%. The number of fatalities caused by distracted driving increased 28% between 2005 and 2008 alone.” This decrease can most likely be accredited to the long term efforts to stop drinking and driving.

These figures are inspiring and scary at the same time. They are inspiring because drunk driving has decreased, which means that strict penalties and anti drinking and driving movements have been effective. However, they are alarming in that distracted driving is on the rise, and strict penalties need to be enforced to dissuade people from texting while driving and to make it less of a social norm.

One idea I have seen on several highways is a designated “text stop”, which may promote people to stop and send texts if they need to or use apps on their phones. However, I do not think this is enough to stop texting and driving because stopping is inconvenient if there is no incentive. Alternatively, if texting and driving yielded higher penalties, the incentive would be that most people do not want to deal with the legal fees and process of strict penalties comparable to those of drunk driving.

Although I believe that stricter distracted driving laws need to be implemented, the best way I can make a change right now is by examining my driving habits and the driving habits of my loved ones. The newest game right now that most young adults are playing is called Pokemon Go, an interactive, augmented phone game that uses your location to search for Pokemon in your area. In theory, the game promotes players to leave their homes and exercise because in order to catch the Pokemon, you have to walk to different locations.

Since players really do want to “catch ‘em all”, there have been several accidents caused by Pokemon Go users driving around to look for Pokemon. For this reason, when my boyfriend wants to play Pokemon Go in the car and I am in the passenger seat, I offer to play for him while he is driving. Besides advocating for stricter laws against distracted driving, friends and loved ones of Pokemon Go  players can ask that they only use the game in the car if there is a passenger that can play for them while they drive.

Personally, I have caused a car accident because of distracted driving. This is not something I am proud of at all, but it made me realize how quickly accidents happen. My phone was on the floor of my car and it started buzzing so I looked down for a split second to see who was calling me and before I could even process what happened, I rear-ended the car in front of me. Ironically, it was my mom calling to see if I was safe. Luckily no one was hurt, but even cautious drivers that try their hardest to not become distracted by phones may find themselves in a situation where they are distracted.

Before the accident, I considered myself a safe driver because I try not to text while driving. However, I was not texting and my phone managed to distract me. Before my accident, I had heard facts like, “If a vehicle is traveling at 55mph, the average driver does not look at the road for about the length of an entire football field while sending a text.” It is hard to conceptualize that fact unless you experience a situation like it, unfortunately.

It’s easy to criticize others for how they drive but we also need to examine our individual driving habits. After my accident, I never text and drive but I do use GoogleMaps on my phone, which requires me to look down sometimes. To avoid this, I make sure that the voice direction is turned on, so that I can listen to the directions. As a young adult, I have to admit that it can be difficult to avoid the phone in the car, especially if I am by myself. We are accustomed to being entertained every second of the day, so when my radio station turns to commercials, I have to stop myself from reaching for my phone and seeing what is going on in the presidential election or what people on Facebook ate for lunch.

I have tried to think of instances in which texting or looking at your phone while driving is acceptable, like in an emergency, but there are always alternatives like pulling over or making a phone call and using speakerphone while paying attention to the road. The first step is to look at our own driving habits and the driving habits of our loved ones. Secondly, I believe that stricter laws should be implemented to dissuade people from texting and driving. As much as I would hate for people to receive heavy fines for texting and driving, I would hate even more to see more injuries and deaths caused by distracted driving.

The above essay is Thomas Law Office’s Spring 2017 scholarship winning essay– the one that paved the way to helping Chelsea Sumner of Connecticut attend her first year of college. The topic was about ideas that we can put into practice to lessen distracted driving and help individuals become more aware of the inherent risks. Chelsea’s essay was extremely well-written and provides both personal examples and realistic ideas that are simple to put in action any day.

For more information on the next scholarship period which will be for Fall 2017, please see our law firm’s scholarship page. Congratulations, Chelsea! May all your dreams come true.