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Kanoski Bresney Scholarship Winners Learn More About Our Scholarship Recipients

Through our Stand Up to Distracted Driving Scholarship, Kanoski Bresney aims to raise awareness of the dangers of distracted driving and support students who are passionate about doing the same. Each year, we ask our applicants to write an essay about their experiences with distracted driving and their ideas for awareness and prevention among young drivers. Based on their thoughtful, creative responses, the following students have been selected to receive $1,000 toward their pursuit of higher education.

Inaya Gray

Inaya Gray

Dillard University

Inaya's Essay

Monday, September 30, 2019 represents the beginning of the most difficult nine months of my life. On that date, I was involved in a three-car accident caused by a distracted, 16-year- old driver while en route to swim practice. The side of my head collided forcefully with the window upon impact as a car ricocheted into the door next to where I sat. My resulting physical condition steadily declined in the following days, which led to my being put on Concussion Protocol by my pediatrician.

The result of the accident affected me physically. I had daily headaches, which often became excruciating migraines causing dizziness, light sensitivity, and often made it difficult to concentrate. I went to vestibular physical therapy twice per week. An MRI, CT scan, EKG, and a neuropsychological assessment were performed. I also met with various specialists (vestibular physical therapist, neurologist, Concussion Clinic doctor, concussion ophthalmologist, orthoptist, and an outpatient therapist).

My being on Concussion Protocol affected me socially. Missing a season of competitive swimming was difficult, and I had to work my way back to top physical condition. Swimming has been a huge part of my life since I was eight years old, and my not being allowed to swim created a void in my life. I missed the thrill of competition and interacting with my teammates and coaches. My hiatus from swimming was then exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, which caused me to miss an additional season of practice and competition. My concussion prevented my participation in the activities I previously enjoyed with my friends such as riding roller coasters, skating, bowling, and joining the track and field team.

My being on Concussion Protocol affected me academically. My accident took place less than two months after I began my freshman year of high school, which is a difficult year of transition for many students. I was not allowed to take tests and quizzes, which led to my ending my first semester of freshman year with “incompletes” in all of my classes. I had to make up missed quizzes and tests from the first semester while having to complete second semester assignments, quizzes, and tests after my Concussion Protocol restrictions gradually eased. With the help of tutors, having a strong will to succeed, being extremely organized, and working hard, I completed all assigned tasks by the end date of my freshman year. I ended my freshman year with a 3.58 GPA while obtaining First Honors recognition. This was accomplished while also adjusting to remote learning as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

My experience taught me that perseverance, hard work, determination, and strong organizational skills pay off. I learned that undergoing therapy is a sign of strength in that it shows one’s ability to take ownership of one’s condition. I was diagnosed with an adjustment disorder, and I continue to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, migraines, and short-term memory loss as a result of the car accident. My outpatient therapist has taught me relaxation and stress management techniques (breathing, healthy expression of emotions, journaling, and drawing) to better equip me to cope with the aftermath of the accident and academic stress. My experience taught me that I have strength I had not previously recognized, and I am certain now that I can accomplish anything I set my mind to accomplish. The following quote from Maya Angelou summarizes my experience: “You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated. In fact, it may be necessary to encounter the defeats, so you can know who you are, what you can rise from, how you can still come out of it.”

Raising awareness of the dangers of distracted driving and preventing it among young drivers is crucial to promoting road safety and preventing other young people like me from having their lives negatively impacted by the careless actions of others. Actions such as educational campaigns, public service announcements, community involvement, and the use of social media and apps can be used to discourage distracted driving. Those interested in addressing distracted driving should collaborate with schools to integrate distracted driving awareness into driver’s education curricula. Methods can include presentations, workshops, discussions, and virtual reality simulators to provide young drivers with firsthand experience of the dangers of distracted driving. Engaging and interactive online courses and modules can also be incorporated to teach students about the risks of distracted driving. Survivors of distracted driving accidents or their families should be invited to share their firsthand experiences with students. Emotionally compelling public service announcement should be created for television, radio, and online platforms. Eye-catching billboards should be placed in high-traffic areas to remind drivers of the consequences of distracted driving. Community events such as rallies, races, and safety fairs should be organized to raise awareness about distracted driving. Local businesses, law enforcement, and emergency services should participate in such efforts to promote safe driving practices and to illustrate the collaboration needed to decrease incidences of distracted driving.

Unique hashtags should be created and promoted on social media platforms to encourage discussions and to share personal stories related to distracted driving. Apps should be developed to monitor and prevent distracted driving by blocking or restricting phone use while driving. Apps should also be used to provide rewards or penalties based on driving behaviors. Incentives can include reduced fines or insurance discounts for young drivers who go a certain period without distracted driving incidents. A combination of the aforementioned strategies, tailored to the specific needs and demographics of the target audience, can be highly effective in raising awareness of the dangers of distracted driving and preventing such instances among young drivers.

Elliot Rose

Elliot Rose

University of Illinois Chicago School of Law

Elliot's Essay

Life experiences greatly help mold and guide an individual as they move through life and gain valuable wisdom and experience. When it comes to distracted driving, I have experienced consequences and impactful life lessons as both victim and offender while of a younger age. While most correlate distracted driving with cell phone usage, the reality is that any act of which takes a driver’s attention away from safely operating a vehicle may constitute distracted driving. In years past before cellphones became mainstream, distracted driving still resulted in a large number of crashes particularly among younger drivers. Behaviors such as fumbling with radio stations, applying makeup while driving, distractions by lively passengers and/or retrieving dropped items often resulted in fateful consequences.

As a venturing 16 year old with a freshly minted drivers license not yet even settled in my wallet, I borrowed my parents car heading to an after school event when I was struck by a distracted driver at a red traffic light. Prior to the collision, I remember seeing the vehicle traveling toward the intersection at a high rate of speed. As an inexperienced driver, I failed to understand the other driver may not have noticed my presence while waiting to turn onto an adjacent street. While both vehicles were nearly totaled in the collision, I was fortunate that nobody was seriously injured. At the time of the crash, I could not understand how someone could be driving and not paying attention to the roadway so much so that they missed a solid red light and failed to see a vehicle waiting infront of them. Following discussion with responding officers, it was later discovered the woman was distracted by her crying child having dropped a toy in the backseat. In lieu of simply pulling over or allowing for her child to cry a few minutes until she could safely stop, I was nearly killed due to her negligence. Later in life I realized that as a young driver, I also failed to take precautionary measures to avoid the crash as I had no experience being in such a situation.

Years later, I found myself driving along a 2-lane country road heading home from college. After stopping for gas and grabbing a few snacks, I continued the long drive home to celebrate the end of another semester and the upcoming holidays with family. While driving, the snack bag I purchased fell off the front seat and onto the passenger side floorboard. Instead of stopping or pulling over, I reached over and tried unsuccessfully to grab the bag (while inadvertently jerking the steering wheel). My vehicle suddenly swerved onto the gravel shoulder of the roadway. As a young and inexperienced driver, I did the complete opposite of what I should have done and immediately jerked the wheel while slamming on the brakes. In addition to overcorrecting, the wheels lost traction and the car began to spin out and nearly roll over. After eventually coming to a stop within the middle of the roadway and two blown tires, I was extremely fortunate no other motorists had been traveling in the opposite direction as it would have resulted in a massive, high speed crash. Much like the experience of which took place when I was younger, I realized distraction, impatience, lack of experience and negligence nearly cost me my life.

Such experiences made me realize just how substantially any distraction removing one’s attention from the roadway could have disastrous consequences. Coupled with my earlier experience as mentioned above, I realized younger and inexperienced drivers were more easily impacted by minor distractions of which an experienced driver may have the maturity to ignore and/or experience to react differently. As fate would have it, these experiences heavily influenced my later career as that of a police officer.

Throughout my career as an officer, I focused heavily on traffic safety and distracted driving, writing countless citations and making numerous arrests. Having been a police officer for over 20 years serving within various supervisory roles, I had the fortune of leading and redesigning a traffic unit targeting distracted and impaired driving following mainstream acceptance of smartphones as crashes and fatalities relating to distracted driving increased exponentially. Far too often were motorists seen texting, watching videos or talking on their phone while driving atop other distracting behaviors.

In order to help combat the significant increase in crashes and fatalities related to distracted driving, law enforcement within Illinois began heavily promoting the adoption of laws specifically directed to help combat distracted driving. While no state laws were originally in existence, local municipalities adopted and put in place ordinances specifically targeting distracted/negligent driving. Such ordinances often were purposefully open ended and written in a manner to encompass any person that operates a vehicle in a negligent or distracted manner.

Legislative officials and IDOT (Illinois Department of Transportation) took note as to the reduction in traffic crashes related to distracted driving from targeted enforcement within these municipalities and put in place state laws to further combat the increasing epidemic. Illinois was one of the first states within the country to adopt several laws that specifically prohibited the usage of electronic communication devices while driving. Initially met with mixed success, Illinois slowly increased penalties associated with distracted driving so much so that repeated violations resulted in a suspended drivers license and anyone involved in an at-fault crash involving injury while using an electronic device could be charged with a felony.

While such laws have substantially aided in reducing crashes and fatalities related to distracted driving, few efforts have gone into acknowledging the impact of which distracted driving has on younger motorists. Much like I experienced when younger, motorists between the ages of 16-21 are statistically 10 times more likely to be involved in a severe or fatal crash due to a minor distraction from within the vehicle. Legislative officials must be urged to further strengthen distracted driving laws targeting younger motorists. Much like underage consumption of alcohol and graduated drivers license programs, motorists under the age of 21 convicted of a distracted driving violation should have driving privileges suspended and/or be required to attend educational courses related toward understanding the dangers of distracted driving. While distracted driving has and will always play a role in many of the crashes and fatalities on our roadways, law enforcement, educators and legislative officials must continue to work together to modify laws, promote safe driving behaviors and provide for increased enforcement toward distracted driving related offenses especially among younger motorists.

Hello all- First off, I wanted to personally thank each of you for the generous scholarship that I was awarded through the firm. I cannot even begin to tell you how much it will help offset the costs associated with law school. From a personal standpoint, it reaffirms why I want to get further involved within the legal career, as so many others stand behind and support one another as they progress and handle the varying challenges thrown at one another. I can promise that one day following graduation and establishment within the field, I too will do the same in giving back to the community and others pursuing a legal education.-Elliot Rose

Clara Biela

Clara Biela

Cornell University

Clara's Essay

Car accidents and the deaths that result from them are something that we as a society will always have to be conscious of. No matter how many laws and regulations we put in place to make the road a safer place, there will always be some accidents, but there are steps that can be taken to decrease this danger. Many of our government officials are concerned about things like drunk driving and speeding (I’m sure we’ve all seen the influx of speed cameras, especially in major cities), and while these are a major cause of motor-vehicle accidents, there is another cause that has become so commonplace in our world that many people don’t even see it as an issue. Distracted driving results in upwards of 3,000 deaths every year, and while this may not be the biggest cause of accidents, it is the most easily avoidable.

Living in a big city like Chicago, I see and hear about distracted driving everyday. Texting and driving should always be a concern, people think they are skilled enough to type away on their phone and still drive safely. They are not. My dad’s coworker rides a scooter to work and always talks about how he’ll see people watching movies and facetiming while operating their vehicle. We as a society and a government should be trying to regulate all actions that could lead to danger on the roads, so why have dangers like intoxication been so regulated but people aren’t even aware of the consequences that may come from driving with a screen right in front of them.

Now I don’t want to seem holier than all get out, I can’t say that I have never talked on the phone while driving or been in the passenger seat with someone being equally irresponsible. My boyfriend, Eliezer, will sometimes switch his music, usually to something I like more than his music or text his mom while we’re in the car. My own brother, Theodore, has displayed thoughtless driving behaviors, stopping at red lights to text his girlfriend multiple times in one drive. Does he really need to switch songs? Does he really need to text his girlfriend who he'll see in ten minutes? No, but nobody is perfect. But that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t try to improve our habits.

As I said before, distracted driving is probably the easiest cause of accidents to solve. So easy, they shouldn’t even be happening. It comes down to common sense. Speaking as someone who is part of the technology generation, I see everyday teenagers and young adults who text while driving because they are overly concerned about what the other person will think if they don’t respond back right away. The solution to not only alert the person on the other side of the phone and to protect drivers is a simple click of a button. Most phones have a driving mode which turns on an auto-reply, so if you receive a message while in your car, your phone will immediately text back saying something along the lines of “I’m driving”. This way the driver doesn’t have to worry about responding right away and can focus on the task at hand.

Another development in our world which I believe has contributed to the amount of phones being used while driving are the phone holders that clip onto one’s vents and hold their phone. The idea behind it isn’t the issue, it’s that people now use this holder to excessively use their personal devices while they drive, be it talking to a friend on facetime, watching a movie, or even using the camera as a mirror to do their makeup. Growing up, I carpooled with many of my friends' parents who had these phone holders and would constantly be tapping away on their phone because I was right in front of them. I believe if we take away the temptation to be on the phone by storing it somewhere, like the middle section between the driver and passenger’s seat, the amount of accidents caused by distracted driving will decrease. Sometimes all it takes is putting away the screen. Out of sight, out of mind.

Many of our young drivers, myself included, learned how to drive and the dos and don’ts of the road through the state driver’s education courses. These courses do usually acknowledge the danger of intoxicated and reckless driving (i.e. don’t speed kids), but I think that putting a higher emphasis on the problems caused by having one’s phone behind the wheel is extremely important, especially considering how technology addicted this generation is. Creating a habit from the very start will hopefully keep this habit through the rest or their adult lives. All it would take is adding another short lesson to the class description.

While speeding and drunk driving are still the biggest culprits in roadway deaths, every driver has the ability to help the distracted driving issue by simply putting the phone away. This small change in behavior could have big results, easily saving thousands of lives.

Jordin Stewart

Jordin Stewart

University of Phoenix

Jordin's Essay


Distracted driving has become an alarming epidemic that affects countless lives each year, and unfortunately, my own life has not been exempt from its consequences. This pervasive issue has insinuated itself into the fabric of our daily lives, posing a significant threat to road safety and leaving a trail of tragedy in its wake. This essay delves into the profound impact of distracted driving on my personal experiences, shedding light on the ripple effects that extend far beyond the confines of a single incident. Furthermore, it outlines innovative ideas aimed at raising awareness and preventing this perilous behavior, with a specific focus on the vulnerability of young drivers. As we navigate the complex intersection of technology, human behavior, and societal norms, the urgency to address distracted driving has never been more pressing.

The Personal Toll

My close friend, whom I had shared countless memories and laughter with, became a tragic statistic in the growing epidemic of distracted driving. The incident shattered the illusion of invincibility that often accompanies the vitality of youth. The emotional toll of witnessing the consequences of such negligence left an indelible mark on my life, etching a painful reminder that the consequences of distracted driving extend far beyond the statistics and headlines.

The pain and loss suffered by my friend's family were not abstract concepts but tangible, palpable expressions of grief that reverberated through our shared circle. The sudden void left by my friend's absence was a constant, haunting presence – a stark reminder of how a momentary lapse in attention on the road could irrevocably alter the course of multiple lives.

In the aftermath, as we grappled with the unfathomable loss, it became painfully evident that the devastating impact of distracted driving transcends individual tragedy. It ripples through families, leaving fractured relationships and unfulfilled dreams in its wake. Moreover, it casts a shadow over communities, serving as a poignant testament to the collective responsibility we bear in preventing such heart-wrenching incidents.

The grieving process was not confined to mourning the loss of a dear friend; it extended to questioning the societal factors that contribute to the prevalence of distracted driving. Were we, as a society, doing enough to address this issue? How could we transform our grief into action, ensuring that others wouldn't have to endure the same heartache?

This personal tragedy propelled me into a journey of introspection and advocacy, a commitment to turning anguish into activism. It underscored the imperative of raising awareness about the real, human toll of distracted driving and instigating change at both individual and societal levels.

As I navigated through the complexities of grief and the quest for meaning in the face of tragedy, it became evident that my experience was not unique. Many families had been shattered, and countless individuals had been scarred by the repercussions of distracted driving. It was a shared grief that transcended individual narratives and called for a collective response.

In sharing my story, I hope to contribute to a growing dialogue surrounding distracted driving, fostering empathy and understanding. It is a conversation that needs to be amplified, not only through personal anecdotes but through a comprehensive exploration of solutions that address the root causes of this perilous behavior.

The Evolution of Distractions

The proliferation of smartphones and other electronic devices has significantly contributed to the rise in distracted driving incidents. From texting and talking on the phone to browsing social media and using navigation apps, the temptation to engage with these devices while behind the wheel has become pervasive. As a result, the road has become a perilous environment where drivers are not fully focused on the task at hand, jeopardizing their safety and that of others.

Effect on Young Drivers

Young drivers, in particular, are vulnerable to the allure of constant connectivity. The desire to stay connected with friends and social networks often overrides the understanding of the potential consequences of distracted driving. As a member of this demographic, I have witnessed peers engaging in risky behaviors while driving, seemingly oblivious to the dangers they pose to themselves and others on the road.

Raising Awareness: Education and Advocacy

To address the issue of distracted driving, a multifaceted approach is required. Education plays a pivotal role in creating awareness and fostering a culture of responsible driving. Implementing comprehensive driver education programs in schools, colleges, and community centers can instill a sense of responsibility and emphasize the potential consequences of distracted driving. Real-life stories, like my friend's experience, can be powerful tools to drive home the gravity of the issue.

Advocacy campaigns can also leverage various platforms, such as social media, to disseminate information and engage the younger demographic. Collaborations with influencers, celebrities, and community leaders can amplify the message and make it more relatable to the target audience. Public service announcements, both online and on traditional media, can further reinforce the dangers of distracted driving and encourage responsible behavior.

Technological Solutions

In the age of smartphones, harnessing technology to combat distracted driving is a logical step. Developers can create and promote apps that block certain functionalities while driving, such as texting and social media access. These apps can use GPS and motion sensors to detect when a vehicle is in motion and automatically disable distracting features. Additionally, car manufacturers could integrate built-in systems that limit the use of certain functions when the vehicle is in motion, promoting a safer driving environment.

Community Engagement

Local communities play a vital role in shaping the behavior of young drivers. Community events, workshops, and town hall meetings can serve as platforms to discuss the dangers of distracted driving. Collaborating with local law enforcement to organize awareness campaigns, where officers share real-life examples and consequences of distracted driving, can create a lasting impact. Furthermore, establishing community-driven initiatives, such as pledge drives and support groups, can foster a sense of collective responsibility.

Legal Measures

While education and awareness are crucial, the enforcement of strict laws and penalties for distracted driving is equally important. Governments and legislative bodies should continuously review and strengthen existing laws to reflect the evolving nature of distractions on the road. Increased fines, license point deductions, and mandatory educational programs for offenders can act as deterrents and reinforce the severity of the issue.


Distracted driving is not merely a statistic or a fleeting headline; it is a pervasive issue that has touched the lives of many, including my own. The fight against this dangerous behavior requires a comprehensive strategy that combines education, technology, community engagement, and legal measures. By raising awareness and implementing preventive measures, we can work towards creating a safer road environment for everyone, particularly young drivers who are most at risk. Through collective effort and a commitment to change, we can hope to minimize the devastating impact of distracted driving on individuals, families, and communities.

Blake Meyer

Blake Meyer

Illinois State University

Blake's Essay

Every day, 19,937 drivers, averaging 831 per hour and 14 per minute, contribute to distracted driving accidents involving people close to you. Witnessing your loved ones involved in crashes is an incredibly disheartening experience. Whether it's family members or teammates, crashes profoundly impact everyone in your life. I have witnessed, been a part of, and been affected by accidents on the road. Accidents affect everyone in the world. It can affect your family and have a profound impact on your life.

My mom and sister got caught up in an intense car crash on the interstate. It was all because this driver couldn't put their phone down and swerved into my sister's lane. The collision happened at a crazy 70 mph, and honestly, it could have been a disaster if my sister hadn't had a quick reaction time. Luckily, they both walked away without any physical injuries, but the car was wrecked, and the whole experience was pretty traumatic for both of them.

What's wild is that my sister wasn't the one distracted; she had both hands on the wheel of her Honda Civic and managed to keep control. But despite coming out physically okay, the whole thing left them shaken, and it still gets to them. To add insult to injury, the person responsible didn't have valid insurance or an in-state ID. It's just one of those crazy situations you never think will happen to your family, but it does.

On the flip side, during my sophomore high school travel baseball season, the star center fielder used his phone while driving and did not abide by the laws surrounding new drivers. These dangerous acts that he continued to do led to a scary and spine-chilling accident that affected him, his friends in the car, and our baseball team's success. Going at a dangerous speed on a country road AND being distractedby his phone is not a good mix! His inexperience behind the wheel and being distracted by three extra people inside the car enhanced this distraction. According to Illinois law, a new driver is allowed ONE unrelated person inside the vehicle. At a dangerous speed, he crashed into a tree. This was due to being distracted by disobeying the law of only having one passenger inside the car, using his phone, and not paying attention to the road.

One way to prevent accidents is through peer-to-peer programs. Young people often value their peers' opinions, so these programs in schools and communities can encourage open discussions about the dangers of distracted driving. Peer influence can motivate positive behavior change. Mentorship programs, where experienced young drivers guide their peers in adopting safe driving habits, can be incredibly effective.

There are other methods to reduce distracted driving, such as incentivizing safe behavior. Implementing reward systems and incentives, like insurance discounts, scholarships, or recognition programs for distraction-free driving achievements, can motivate young drivers to prioritize safety. Positive reinforcement can create a culture where responsible driving is expected and celebrated.

Social media campaigns are also crucial. Using platforms like TikTok, Facebook, or Instagram is vital for reaching the younger demographic. Engaging and sharing content, such as impactful videos, infographics, and testimonials, can spread across popular platforms, creating a viral effect. Social media challenges promote safe driving habits and encourage users to share their commitment to distraction-free driving, fostering a sense of community and responsibility.

You can also leverage social media by partnering with influencers. Collaborating with social media influencers and celebrities popular among young audiences can significantly increase the reach of anti-distracted driving messages. These influencers can share their experiences, participate in awareness campaigns, and use their platforms to encourage responsible driving behavior. Partnering with influencers enhances the message's credibility and makes it more relatable and appealing to the target audience. Combating distracted driving among young individuals requires a comprehensive, sustained, and multifaceted approach.

Although many of these passive ideas can affect the number of distracted drivers, everyone could be better. I use my phone occasionally, which has almost led to a massive danger to myself and those around me. When I see stats like being on your phone is 6 times more deadly than driving while drunk really gives me reasons to not be distracted while driving. I have implemented different ideas to change my use of my phone. I like to put my phone somewhere I cannot hear or see it. This changes how I drive as I do not see push notifications and am not distracted. This helps as I will not be distracted from a fender bender to a complete T-bone in an intersection, where people could constantly be distracted. I have even turned on do not driving focus on my iPhone to further alleviate my distraction. This can be mitigated even further if more drastic measures are taken. Some things already implemented inside Illinois that have reduced the number of distracted drivers is more significant fines and recurring offenders. For example, inside Illinois, you can be fined up to $150 for your first offense and up to $500 for your second. These fines have been integral in the ability to mitigate distracted driving. These fines need to be publicized all around as over the last 10 years, phone use has decreased from 5.2% to 2.5%. This decrease has been due to the many new ideas the government has implemented and the new ideas that students have created.

In summary, the widespread problem of distracted driving, as seen in the daily car crash statistics of 19,937 incidents, directly affects people we care about - our families, friends, and teammates. These stories vividly illustrate the emotional toll of these accidents, stressing the importance of taking comprehensive measures to address the human factor in distracted driving. The substantial decrease in phone use over the past decade, thanks to government policies, indicates that strict consequences can influence behavior and contribute to safer roads. However, ensuring road safety remains an ongoing journey, requiring continuous efforts, educational campaigns, and firm consequences. The goal is to turn statistics into stories of lives saved, and communities united in making safety a top priority on our roads.

Anastasia Joy Gustafson

Anastasia Joy Gustafson

Northwestern University

Anastasia's Essay

My brother was in a head-on collision in 2014. When the Jaws of Life peeled back the layers of his blue Hyundai Tiburon, he was lucky he got out alive. My story is not unusual, and there is a certain level of tragic loss that resides in that reality.

Through no fault of his own, on a dark night in September, my brother nearly lost his life because someone was texting on their phone. A heavily built 1998 Lincoln Towncar easily overtook his small, cheaply-made sedan. The front end of the Lincoln Towncar had gobbled up all the soft, blue metal. It looked like a balled-up piece of paper. I often wondered from the photos my brother took how anyone could walk out of that situation alive. The image is burned into my memory to this day, and it haunts my passing thoughts. The now crumpled car was completely totaled. My brother had serious mouth damage from the impact. The soft palate of his mouth had torn away from his upper and lower mandible, requiring surgery and stitches. Both of his eyes were black, and much of him was bruised, broken, or sore.

This incident left me with a pretty significant fear of driving. Merging onto highways often induced mild panic attacks. Driving in high-traffic areas such as the city of Chicago is something I outright refused to do for a long time. I did not want to end up like Greg.

Over time, through therapy and prayer, I was able to overcome my fear of driving. But, this does not mean the problem itself has gone away. In fact, during my last year of high school, a friend of mine crashed their car into a utility pole, which took his life. His friends said that he was evading the police after being pursued for texting while driving.

People have lost friends, loved ones, or their own lives by using their phones when they know better. The concept is so common today that it is often said there is a higher chance of dying in a car accident than in a plane crash. While this may or may not be true, the principle is devastating. People display a disturbing level of apathy for distracted driving.

There are a few ways common people can begin addressing this. First, people need to be shown images of what can happen when people engage in distracted driving. Billboards could be purchased by local police stations or government offices to showcase easy-to-digest images warning people against distracted driving. This way, people will have frequent ‘impressions’ regarding this issue. The term ‘impressions’ comes from a business advertising ideology that asserts the more times people are exposed to a song, image, advertisement, or idea, the more they will begin to process and internalize that message. This would be a tangible first step in stopping distracted driving.

Secondly, people should be offered extremely attractive initiatives by their insurance companies to not use their phones while driving. Currently, there are apps insurance companies offer customers which track the safety of participating drivers in exchange for a discount for excellent driving. These programs are in their infancy, with some drivers opting not to participate in the insurance-sponsored driving apps which track users during their time on the road. Most people opt out because the perception of ‘being watched by big brother’ does not outweigh the meager financial incentives. For my insurance company, the monthly discount is around $20. If insurance companies offered customers a $100 comprehensive driver’s insurance package with the condition of being a full-time app user, it would quickly become the case that people would take advantage of programs such as these. People can begin writing to their legislators to pressure companies to enact change such as this.

Third, driver education courses need to become more robust across the United States of America. Rigorous curriculum such as parallel parking, merging onto highways, and knowing highly detailed rules of the road are being left out of the classroom lessons as more and more drivers struggle to meet basic driving expectations. Instead of keeping driver education classes as a single semester-long course in public schools, communities could easily extend the class into two-semester parts. This would support the needs of learners who are currently struggling in a post-Covid learning context. If students today are struggling in all major subjects, it is perhaps not a leap in thought that they might struggle in driver's education, too. We could keep the one-semester option as an ‘accelerated’ option for students. But, it should be given a more hearty curriculum.

Additionally, legislators should make it illegal for television-like screens to be installed in the front seat dash systems of cars. I have been in cars that essentially have a working television in the front seat. Touchscreen dash systems are hazardous for drivers as the very nature of the car encourages distracted driving. Car companies should be offered incentives to develop more hands-free technology to support a safer driving environment for everyone. Slowly, touchscreen dash systems and other similar technologies should be phased out as safer and better tools come of age.

Finally, while an unpopular idea, it might be advisable to raise the driving age from 16 to 18 years of age. In Europe, this practice is common. And, they do so with purpose; 16-year-olds are prone to errors, distractions, and reckless driving habits. Due to the lack of prefrontal cortex development in young teenagers, many of them do not demonstrate the maturity or understanding of the danger necessary to be a trustworthy member of the driving community. It is time to carefully consider how traditions of the past might not best serve the interest of our communities today.

While distracted driving might be impossible to entirely eradicate, there is much that the United States can do to mitigate it. Even if these offerings are just a start, implementing just one of them would mean America is on the road to a safer destination.

Briana Ornelas

Briana Ornelas

Malcolm X City College

Briana's Essay

My life has been touched by the impact of distracted driving on numerous occasions. I've seen those close to me suffer unimaginable pain and loss when friends and family perished in crashes caused by inattentive drivers. The emotional aftermath of these tragedies has been overwhelming and unbearable. How can we tolerate a world where loved ones are taken away too soon because of avoidable circumstances? The shock and mourning brought on by such events are raw and haunting, lingering as a painful reminder of the consequences of careless driving. Miraculously doing well today is my mother, who I will use as an example.

One day, my mother was on her way to pick me up from work when the unthinkable happened. A distracted driver, who was drinking while driving, crashed into her car from the side. Although she emerged alive, the after-effects of the accident lingered on. Joyful days that comprised shopping and city excursions became a thing of the past. Triggered by bouts of nervousness, sadness, and dreadful flashbacks, she was unable to live life as usual. The pain and trauma of the accident caused our once-happy family to struggle and we weren't the same anymore.

Distracted driving can have catastrophic and far-reaching consequences. Accidents affect not only the driver and passengers, but also their families, friends, and the community at large. All parties involved may suffer long-term physical, emotional, and financial consequences.

To begin with, A number of ideas can be implemented to raise awareness of distracted driving among young drivers and prevent this behavior. For example, young drivers must be educated about the dangers of distracted driving. They are the most vulnerable group because they are inexperienced and have a higher tendency to engage in distracted driving. This education can be done through seminars, lectures, and campaigns. One idea to raise awareness is to launch public education campaigns that are aimed at educating young people on the dangers of distracted driving. These campaigns can include shocking images, videos, and stories that show the devastating effects of distracted driving. They should also focus on encouraging young drivers to become more responsible drivers and to make a pledge always to avoid distracted driving. Young people need to understand that distracted driving is not only illegal but also highly dangerous.

Secondly, another idea is to leverage social media to disseminate information about the dangers of distracted driving. Social media is an influential platform that can reach and engage young people. Youths spend a lot of time on social media interacting with their peers and exploring digital content, making it an ideal platform to spread awareness. Social media campaigns that target young drivers can go a long way in reducing incidences of distracted driving. Social media campaigns such as videos, graphics and online challenges can be used to target young people and make them more aware of the dangers of distracted driving. These campaigns can also include testimonials from accident survivors and the bereaved families, to emphasize the severity of distracted driving.

Furthermore, Legislation and enforcement are other ways to prevent distracted driving among young drivers. Strict laws should be in place with harsh penalties for offenders. The law should prohibit phone use while driving and should cover all forms of distraction. The penalties could range from fines to suspension of driving licenses or even imprisonment. Law enforcement officials should be adequately trained and equipped to detect distracted driving and penalize offenders appropriately.

Moreover, In-car technology is also an effective way to prevent distracted driving. The introduction of technology that blocks distracting apps and messages when driving can significantly reduce accidents caused by mobile phone use while driving. This technology can also include the locking of the phone screen when driving or limiting certain functionalities when the car is in motion, such as disabling texting capability. In addition, GPS systems could be modified to give drivers vocal instructions instead of requiring them to read a screen. This way, the driver can keep his/her eyes on the road.

By holding presentations and attending community events, law enforcement personnel can educate school children about safe driving. They can explain the legal consequences of distracted driving and stress the importance of avoiding distractions while driving. The goal is to increase awareness of the hazards of distracted driving among young people before they start driving.

Finally, parental involvement is crucial in preventing distracted driving among young drivers. Parents should educate their children about the importance of responsible driving and model good driving habits. Parents can also discourage their children from using mobile phones while driving and should also limit expectations to respond quickly to texts or phone calls.

The use of technology and its impact on our lives is the new normal. Devices such as smartphones, tablets, laptops, and the internet have provided us with convenience, productivity, and efficiency. However, it is imperative to understand that such technology can also be a source of distraction that could lead to disastrous consequences when used while driving.

In conclusion, many lives have been impacted by distracted driving. To combat this dangerous behavior among young drivers, it is crucial to have education, social media campaigns, legislation, enforcement, in-car technology, and parental involvement. We must be mindful of the hazards of distracted driving and take responsibility to minimize distractions while driving. Keeping a close eye on the road is imperative for all drivers. Let's work together to prevent distracted driving and ensure safer roads for everyone.

Chelsea Blake

Chelsea Blake

Northwestern University Pritzker School of Law

Chelsea's Essay

How has distracted driving affected your life? What ideas do you have to raise awareness of the dangers of distracted driving and prevent this behavior among young drivers? Distracted driving poses a considerable danger to road safety, leading to a significant proportion of traffic accidents, particularly among young drivers. With this demographic often engaging in risky behaviors such as texting or browsing social media while driving, the issue demands immediate attention. My firsthand experience of this problem occurred when I was only seventeen, a formative age where my understanding of responsibility and safety was still budding. The incident, involving me as the distracted driver, not only left physical damage on my vehicle, but more importantly, it left a profound mental imprint, serving as a potent reminder of the potential harm that momentary distractions can cause.

Newly licensed and enthusiastic, I found myself behind the wheel of my first car, driving my friends to my house. Caught up in the moment, I pointed out something interesting through the window, shifting my attention away from the road. In doing so, I failed to notice a car that had halted in front of me to make a left turn and ended up colliding into it. The immediate shock of the situation threw me into a panicked frenzy, marked by overwhelming guilt and anxiety. The sight of the other driver stepping out to check on the twin babies nestled in the back seat was heart-wrenching. The reality that my negligence could have harmed three innocent lives served as a sobering wake-up call. Thankfully, no injuries resulted from the accident, but it instilled a critical lesson that has shaped my driving habits and heightened my vigilance on the road.

The emotional turmoil and regret I experienced afterward drastically changed my perception of driving. It no longer remained just a mode of transportation, but instead turned into an activity that demanded utmost concentration and respect. This personal encounter with the dire consequences of distracted driving is an example of the urgent need for increased awareness and effective preventive measures. It instilled in me a sense of responsibility all those years ago, not just for my own safety, but for those sharing the road with me as well. Hence, this early life event significantly shaped my understanding of road safety and underscores the need to address the widespread issue of distracted driving—then and now.

Traditional awareness campaigns that utilize facts and statistics about the dangers of distracted driving are an effective way to address this problem. However, there are likely more innovative and engaging ways of delivering these messages, especially to a younger audience. One approach could involve leveraging social media platforms, which are predominantly used by young people, to distribute eye-catching infographics, short videos, and stories that highlight the risks of distracted driving. For instance, organizing social media challenges or contests that promote safe driving habits could actively involve young drivers, encouraging them to share safety tips and experiences, thus multiplying the reach and impact of the campaign. There could also be ways to partner with safe-driving organizations to amplify these efforts, such as with car and insurance companies.

Further, my teenage accident opened my eyes to the effectiveness of sharing personal experiences in raising awareness about distracted driving. Personal stories, like my own, have a unique ability to evoke empathy and a deeper understanding of the consequences of our actions. To complement a more statistic-heavy awareness campaign, personal stories can be used to show living examples of the dangers of distracted driving. Sharing experiences can create a dialogue about the repercussions of distracted driving and could be a powerful tool in educating young drivers. Encouraging teens and young adults to share their own experiences and learn from others' could create a community devoted to promoting safer driving habits. Through such personal interactions, we can augment traditional methods of driver education, making it more relatable and impactful for younger drivers. This approach could effectively balance existing methods to prevent distracted driving and further underscore the importance of attentive driving, thus contributing to safer roads for all.

Another strategy would be to expand current incentivization programs to promote safe driving habits. Insurance companies, schools, or local businesses could offer more discounts or rewards to young drivers who maintain a clean driving record or complete distracted driving awareness courses. Such incentives could encourage young drivers to abstain from distracting activities while driving, enhancing overall road safety.

Technology can also play a crucial role in mitigating distracted driving. Driver assistance systems equipped with features such as lane-keeping assist and automatic emergency braking can help reduce the risk of accidents due to distraction. However, an adaptive system that can detect distracted behavior and respond appropriately could be even more effective. For instance, an in- car system could monitor the driver's eye movement, and if it detects that the driver is not paying attention to the road, it could alert the driver or, in extreme cases, take control of the vehicle to prevent a potential collision.

Finally, incorporating distracted driving education into the school curriculum could be a proactive approach. Lessons can be crafted around real-life scenarios, focusing on the practical aspects of driving, including managing distractions. Simulated driving classes can give students an understanding of the potential outcomes of distracted driving, shaping their attitudes and behaviors before they start driving.

In conclusion, while the threat posed by distracted driving, especially among young drivers, is significant, we can address this issue through innovative strategies. Engaging educational campaigns, gamified learning experiences, adaptive driver assistance systems, and in-school curriculum integration are promising pathways to raise awareness of the dangers of distracted driving and foster safer driving habits. Each method addresses the problem from a different angle, yet together they could form a holistic approach to safeguard our roads and the lives that traverse them every day. Had such strategies been in place during my teen years, I might have been more prepared and might have developed a healthier relationship with driving.

Jordan Gates

Jordan Gates

Howard University

Jordan's Essay

Distracted driving, a dangerous epidemic sweeping our roads, has had a profound impact on my life and the lives of countless others. The consequences of this reckless behavior extend far beyond statistics and headlines; they cut deep into the fabric of families and communities. Through my personal experiences and a deep sense of responsibility, I have developed a burning passion to raise awareness about the dangers of distracted driving and cultivate a culture of responsible and focused driving among young drivers. This essay explores the profound impact of distracted driving, presents innovative ideas to raise awareness, and outlines strategies to prevent this behavior.

Distracted driving has left an indelible mark on my life, forever altering my perception of road safety. I vividly recall the day when I received the devastating news that a close friend had lost their life in a car accident caused by a distracted driver. The pain and grief that engulfed our community were unimaginable. Witnessing the shattered lives, broken dreams, and unfulfilled potential resulting from a single moment of distraction ignited an unwavering determination within me to confront this issue head-on.

To combat distracted driving effectively, we must first raise awareness of its dangers. This can be achieved through a multi-faceted approach, combining education, technology, and advocacy. First through education, implementing comprehensive driver's education programs that incorporate explicit modules on the dangers of distracted driving. These programs should emphasize the consequences of distraction, provide real-life stories of its impact, and promote responsible driving habits. Secondly, utilizing school-based initiatives to collaborate with schools to integrate distracted driving awareness campaigns into the curriculum. Establish interactive workshops, engaging discussions, and student-led initiatives to foster peer-to-peer education. By empowering young drivers to become advocates for safe driving practices, we can amplify the impact of awareness efforts. Also public service announcements to utilize various media platforms to disseminate impactful public service announcements that highlight the grim reality of distracted driving. Engage influential figures, celebrities, and social media influencers to endorse safe driving practices and reach a wider audience. Technological solutions to harness the power of technology to mitigate the risks of distracted driving and instill responsible habits among young drivers. Using mobile applications to develop smartphone applications that actively discourage distracted driving. These apps can block incoming notifications, send automated responses, and utilize GPS data to track driving behavior, providing feedback and rewards for focused driving. Utilizing in-car monitoring systems to encourage automobile manufacturers to incorporate advanced in-car monitoring systems that detect signs of distraction, such as erratic driving patterns and lack of attention. These systems can issue alerts and reminders to keep drivers engaged and reduce the likelihood of accidents. To build a collective commitment to combat distracted driving, it is crucial to engage the community at large. By fostering partnerships and leveraging existing networks, we can establish a united front against this pervasive issue. Working together, we can raise awareness, educate individuals, and promote responsible driving habits that prioritize safety above all else.

In forging alliances with established nonprofits and organizations dedicated to road safety, we can pool resources, share best practices, and coordinate campaigns to maximize impact. By collaborating with these entities, we can organize awareness events, workshops, and interactive simulations that vividly illustrate the dangers of distraction. Through these collaborative efforts, we can reach a broader audience and drive home the importance of focused driving. Establishing peer-to-peer mentoring programs is another effective approach. By pairing experienced drivers with newly licensed individuals, we can provide guidance, share personal experiences, and reinforce the importance of focused driving. This mentorship model creates a support system within communities, empowering young drivers to make responsible choices behind the wheel. Through these programs, we can cultivate a culture of accountability and encourage safer driving habits among all age groups. To bring about effective change, we must also garner legislative support. By advocating for stricter penalties for distracted driving offenses, including increased fines, license suspension, mandatory driver's education programs, and community service, we can send a strong message about the gravity of this dangerous behavior. Such legislative measures serve as a deterrent and reinforce the importance of responsible driving to ensure the safety of all road users. To tackle distracted driving effectively, we must support research into innovative technologies that can detect and prevent distraction while driving. Allocating funding to such research initiatives will enable the development of advanced safety features in vehicles, including improved voice command systems and enhanced driver assistance technologies. By embracing cutting-edge technology and supporting ongoing research efforts, we can equip drivers with the tools necessary to mitigate distractions and enhance overall road safety.

In conclusion, the devastating impact of distracted driving cannot be overstated, as it leaves a profound mark on individuals, families, and communities. The pain and loss caused by a single moment of distraction serve as a constant reminder of the urgent need to address this issue head-on. The strategies and approaches outlined in this essay provide a comprehensive framework to combat distracted driving and foster a culture of responsible and focused driving, particularly among young drivers. Utilizing various media platforms, we can effectively communicate the grim reality of distracted driving to a wide audience through impactful public service announcements. By engaging influential figures, celebrities, and social media influencers to endorse safe driving practices, we significantly enhance the reach and impact of these awareness campaigns. Furthermore, technology can serve as a powerful tool in discouraging distracted driving. Smartphone applications and in-car monitoring systems can actively discourage distractions by blocking notifications, sending automated responses, and providing feedback based on driving behavior. These technological solutions enable drivers to maintain focus on the road and reinforce responsible driving habits.By embracing these strategies and working together, we can create a culture that prioritizes safe and focused driving. Through education, technology, and community collaboration, we have the opportunity to prevent future tragedies caused by distracted driving. It is our collective responsibility to ensure the safety of all road users and to foster an environment where distractions are minimized and lives are protected. Let us unite in our commitment to combat distracted driving and pave the way for a future where our roads are safer for everyone.

Mitch Leong

Mitch Leong

Fuller Theological Seminary School of Psychology

Mitch's Essay

Almost one year from today, tragedy struck my family in the most unexpected and devastating way. On a cool evening afternoon, one of my family members was patiently waiting at a red light engrossed in thoughts about how they were going to spend their next couple of hours at a nice family dinner. However, without warning a truck suddenly rammed into her car from behind with unimaginable force. The impact sent the vehicle hurtling across the intersection, leaving behind a trail of shattered plastic and car metal. In the midst of shock, confusion, and the surge of adrenaline, she found herself disoriented, disheveled, and facing a totaled car. To compound the horror of the situation the driver responsible for this catastrophic incident chose to flee the scene. The cowardly act of a hit-and-run added insult to injury, leaving my family not only grappling with the physical and emotional trauma but also wrestling with unanswered questions and a profound sense of injustice. Yet despite the efforts of the police, the perpetrator remains unidentified to this day, perpetuating a sense of vulnerability within our community. By a miracle, I am lucky that I did not lose anybody on that day, but I am forever scarred by the impact this event had on my family and me. This incident served as a wake-up call that action to raise awareness on the dangers of distracted or negligent driving is needed to prevent others from experiencing a similar tragedy. As a graduate student studying clinical psychology, I believe that understanding the factors of the human psyche will aid in reducing the dangers of unsafe driving. In this essay, I will explore three novel ways to address this issue through mindfulness-based interventions, gamification of driving, and virtual reality (VR) technology as potential solutions to keep Americans safer from fatal car accidents.

Fatal car accidents are a significant public health issue that continues to affect millions of Americans every year. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported that there were an estimated 42,795 deaths in motor vehicle traffic crashes in 2021 and with the end of the pandemic, more Americans are on the road (NHTSA, 2021). While traditional methods such as driver education, traffic laws, and infrastructure improvement have helped to reduce road accidents, novel ways are needed to decrease the number of injuries and accidents on the road. Mindfulness-based interventions could promote safe driving behavior by decreasing stress and anxiety, which are common factors that can contribute to hazardous driving outcomes. In a study conducted by Kass and colleagues (2011), mindfulness training helped to increase one’s ability to concentrate and have greater situational awareness for driving. Thus, if these mindfulness techniques can be taught at driver education programs or driver safety interventions, future drivers may be able to make better decisions and avoid any road accidents by being able to better control their stress or anxiety. Through the integration of mindfulness techniques into education programs, drivers can equip themselves with essential skills to decrease any potential distractions and avoid any accidents.

Further, the gamification of driving could motivate behavior change by using game-like elements, such as rewards, to promote safe behavior. A study by Steinberger and Watling (2017) found that performance feedback and incentive offers reduced unsafe coping mechanisms such as speeding while promoting anticipatory driving awareness. Through the integration of gamification into existing technologies like smartphone applications, tapping into one’s desire for rewards can alleviate the dangerous effects that come from boredom and drivings. Additionally, from these rewards, drivers could use points earned by tracking their safe driving habits to decrease their payment for gas, discount on insurance, or even use it for access to express lanes, which would create a safer lane for better drivers. By tapping into the human psyche of one’s desire for rewards and accomplishment, this can create a positive feedback in which individuals will be motivated to safer driving habits.

Finally, VR technology can simulate dangerous driving scenarios and prepare future drivers to address their fears and apprehensions. Exposing drivers to dangerous situations, such as driving under the influence or reacting to dangerous drivers, in a safe and controlled environment can help to build experience. This approach can be used to increase awareness of the consequences of unsafe driving and promote a driver’s ability to anticipate and mitigate latent threats thereby reducing crashes (Agrawal et al., 2018). Through the build up of various scenarios and experiences, young drivers can get a better understanding of how to comport themselves across numerous driving challenges and how to navigate these difficult situations. For example, if VR technology was able to simulate what it is like to drive under the influence, this could potentially simulate the dangers of driving on the road and bring to reality the harsh consequences of doing so. Thus, younger drivers will be able to gain a deeper understanding of responsible driving behavior and develop the appropriate response towards safe driving. By incorporating VR technology into driver training programs, we can equip the next generation of drivers with the skills and knowledge necessary to reduce crashes, save lives, and create a safer driving environment for all.

In conclusion, reducing the number of injuries and accidents on the road requires innovative approaches to address the human factors that contribute to unsafe driving behaviors. Mindfulness-based interventions, gamification of driving, and virtual reality technology offer novel ways to promote safe driving behavior and reduce the number of fatal car accidents across the United States. By integrating these strategies into society, we can create a safer driving environment for all and prevent other individuals from going through the same pain and trauma that my family experienced.

Wyatt Hammer

Wyatt Hammer

University of Wisconsin - Platteville

Wyatt's Essay

Every day, almost 3700 people die from car accidents. That’s more than 2 per minute, and many of these accidents are preventable. Coming from someone who has had 4 family members die in car accidents in the last 15 years, I know the threat of distraction is real. Distractions can range from texting, to eating, to talking with a passenger. Each distraction can be your last mistake when on the road; however, these deaths can be prevented if we change the way we drive and communicate the risks and the statistics regarding distracted driving to drivers around the world.

Almost every time I’m on the road, I see distracted drivers. From people texting, to yelling at kids, or even doing their makeup in the mirror. It makes me angry sometimes, because I feel like I can’t do anything to make them stop. We are going opposite directions at 60 miles per hour and the only thing I can do is be angry for the next 5 minutes. Still, I can’t help but feel like there’s something I can do to raise awareness. I wish people would stop texting, but I realize that I was that person too at one point. That was, until I kept having people I cared about get killed in accidents. Now, my only distractions are limited to sometimes changing the radio station and talking to friends in my car. Some distractions, like those ones, are much harder to prevent. Even so, writing this paper now is making me come up with more solutions to this. People can pre-load playlists on their phone, plug it into their car, and turn notifications off to ward off temptation of picking it up. If we had a set checklist every time we went into a car, we would be more prone to start a routine of making sure our phones aren’t accessible.

Today, children all over the planet are born into a world full of advanced technology. We are exposed to this technology from birth. This can include cellphones, tablets, radio, and GPS. 12% of all distracted driving accidents are due to cell phone usage; a statistic that could also be very underrepresented considering it is illegal to be on your phone while driving, and people are less likely to report it. Teens and millennials now are more exposed to smartphones than anyone in history, so it is no surprise that they are the ones who text the most while driving. However, this weakness of technology while driving can be the greatest strength outside of driving. Teens nowadays have the easiest access to information and communication around the world, so it is a lot easier now to get messages out in the world. With social media, we can spread messages to others about the statistics of driving so people become more aware of the dangers. Teens, especially influencers, often have a large following, and lots of fans are loyal. They have a big pull with their message once it’s out there so if there was a solid movement, it could be beneficial enough to lower risk and increase safe driving. Because, as a lot of teens get distracted easily, they also make other mistakes with safety, including not wearing seatbelts, purposely performing dangerous stunts, and overloading on passengers. Unfortunately, not all risk can be eliminated, and certain distractions will come up. So, in those cases, people do their bests to improve their overall driving safety.

Communication to the public must have a direct message, and that message needs to have more than just distracted driving as the topic. There should also be a main message of safety in general. Because certain accidents do happen when no one is at fault. So, along with putting our phones away, not messing with the radio, and eating while driving, we can also prepare for a crash. Encouraging seatbelt usage is a start. Most people wear a seatbelt, but checking brakes, keeping distance from other cars, and driving actively can all drastically improve safety. Most vehicle crashes actually happen with a single driver, and speeding is the biggest catalyst for these. Among other risks are alcohol and road conditions.

The biggest reason I’m so passionate about safe driving is that I’ve seen firsthand what it can do to a person, that person’s friends, and that person’s family. Just 3 years ago in 2019, I fell asleep at the wheel on my way back from a Six Flags trip in Gurney, Illinois. I remember the time, 2:42 am. I vowed that I wouldn’t fall asleep at the wheel again, yet two minutes later I found myself dozing off with another friend in the car. I ended up making it home okay. Yet, it still scared me how easy it was to fall asleep. I slid off the road a few times, and it really scared me. A few days later, I found out a student that lived 7 miles from me was driving back home at night and died in an accident. He fell asleep at the wheel, hit a telephone pole, and drove into a pond unconsciously. It was an accident that really hurt our community, and I realized that kid could’ve been me. Everyone can play a role in improving road safety, so my goal is to make this information available to everyone, get people excited about safety, and

hope that I can influence at least one person to drive without distracting themselves. So, we all know the statistics. Distracting ourselves always increases our risk of crashing and lots of it is due to technology. Phones, speeding, and talking all help out the world in extraordinary ways. There is so much convenience and they can make our lives a lot easier, especially with phones. But there is still risk, as there is with just about everything. We need to accept that phones, GPS, and friends talking are all good things, but that there is a time and place for certain things. Friends talking in the car is fine, but we can’t get so caught up in the conversation that we can’t focus on the road. Similarly, phones and GPS are great, but they shouldn’t keep being messed with in the car. If we want to increase safety by lowering risk, we just need to make the really hard stats to look at available to people. People need to know the consequences of taking risks, especially teens who are just learning to drive and want to impress their friends. The hard truth is that a lot of people create their own problems, and car accidents are a prime example of this. Most accidents are single-car crashes, and if people were more careful, these actions can be prevented. Furthermore, we also need to increase safety knowledge along with risk assessment skills. We need to wear our seatbelts and refuse to distract ourselves. By doing this, we won’t just save our own lives, but also the lives of friends and family.

KaLeah McFarland

KaLeah McFarland

Arizona State University

KaLeah's Essay

When I was two years old, my mother and I were in a car accident. My mother, who was 30 years old, was experiencing her first car accident at the same time as I was experiencing my first car accident. We were driving down the intersection at about 3 PM when another car hit us in a head-on collision, while illegally trying to make a left turn at a red light. I was flown out of my car seat, breaking the entire seat, and smashed my head into the seat rest above. Had I not been fastened into the car seat I could have suffered a larger impact to my head, and potentially died from crashing through the front windshield. My mother, who was the driver of the vehicle hit her head on the front windshield, causing the windshield to smash, leaving glass in her head and an immense amount of bleeding. The driver that caused the crash was an intoxicated male in his 40s. He fled the scene instantly because he was a driver with a suspended license. He was later found at another intersection and crashed into a light pole. The police were then able to arrest him for fleeing the scene, and he was charged with a DUI.

This accident nearly ended my and my mother's life, and it’s still very traumatic to her to this day. This day is never to be forgotten by my loved ones. I had the driver driving a few miles faster. The collision could’ve been much greater, and our lives could’ve been lost.

When I turned 15, I was able to get my permit, and my parents took it upon themselves to teach me the safest way to drive, even outside of driver’s education school. My mother could’ve suffered a great loss that day, the loss of her firstborn child, and at the time her only child. Due to the lack of consideration for the others on the road, and the poor decision-making made by the man behind the wheel on the other side of the road. The most important thing that I was taught when learning how to drive was the importance to look out for others, and see the signs of other people, poor, driving, and most importantly, how to stay clear of these reckless and dangerous people. Please same lessons that I learned from my parents are not lessons that are taught to all, it needs to be made mandatory for people to not only learn how to drive safely and keep others out of danger, but to also learn how to stay away from danger, and people that put others in harm's way on the road.

Although many would disagree, I believe that it should be mandatory for breathalyzers to be kept in all vehicles. No person should be driving under any type of influence, it has the potential to put so many people at risk. Each year hundreds of thousands of people, die from car crashes, and thousands of those deaths are due to intoxication while behind the wheel. Making breathalyzers mandatory will help illuminate, reckless, driving while intoxicated. This will help save so many lives in the future. If possible, I do believe that the breathalyzer should be not only tested for alcohol, but also for recreational drugs. These drugs also have the ability to impair people's decision-making and natural abilities. No amount of influence should be in a person's system while operating a motor vehicle. Many people would believe that their rights are being taken away if this rule were to take place, however, without being put in the position of losing their loved, ones, or their own life, being put at risk many don’t understand the impact that this rule would have. Current state laws make it mandatory for people that have received a DUI must take a breathalyzer test prior to the ignition starting in their vehicle. This action being taken has helped many get back on the right track and not make the same mistake again. So why not continue on this great path an ad in a law that includes everyone operating a motor vehicle.

Another rule that many states have put in place, but not all is a clause for a hand-free state. A hand-free state means that a person operating a motor vehicle may not have any electronic device in their hand. This helps many individuals to stop being distracted on the road. The state that my parents currently live in, Illinois, is a hands-free state. The numbers have drastically changed since this law has been passed, and thousands of lives have been saved since. Driving while distracted, is so dangerous to anyone on the road. A two-word long text could mean your life, a quick glance at Instagram could mean your life, and reaching in to grab your phone, because it slipped out of your hand could mean your life. The “It Can Wait Movement” has helped make strides in the right direction, and helped people understand the impact of driving while distracted. People need to learn to pull over what is most necessary or wait until they arrive at their destination. Many cars now that are newer have an installed screen with CarPlay on it. CarPlay helps drivers to be less distracted. When I text message comes through, it is announced out loud and instead of typing on your phone, you can simply say your text out loud and ask your device to send it. If a call comes through, you can simply tell Siri to answer the call, or directly on your steering wheel. There are buttons that can help you accept the call. CarPlay also has a feature that allows your device to fulfill commands through voice control. This means less time on your device and more focus on the road.

Each and every person we know who has been a victim of distracted driving knows someone who was affected by distracted driving or has been a distracted driver. The more awareness spread, the more lives we can save!

Ann Fulk

Ann Fulk

Loyola University Chicago

Ann's Essay

I strongly believe that I am the most hardworking student with the most passion to give back to the community that you will encounter. I know, this is a huge claim but I have repeatedly shown I will dedicate myself to a very successful career path, no matter what comes my way. I especially believe that my most recent experiences can improve the lives of others as I dive deeper into the journey of my social work education and career. I will explain to you why.

On January 23rd, 2022 at 5:34 p.m. little did I know, that my whole entire life will have changed forever. Imagine this, you are driving to school, it is the last semester of your undergraduate degree, you are water club founder and president, you have all A’s in your classes, you are enjoying your two part-time jobs, you have a boyfriend, and life is perfect. In the next second, it is all gone. I saw a car for a split second in front of me and then crash. I look around me, my airbag is smoking, glass is shattered everywhere, and all of my school belongings are scattered. I look outside of my crushed car, it is almost pitch black outside and snow is coming down. I am on a country road in Wisconsin and see no cars, no people, nothing. I look back around to find my phone, I realize I cannot move both of my arms. I try to lift my feet from under the steering wheel, but they are stuck. The thought sank in my head, “I am stuck with no way out. I will die here.” I thought about how I did not expect to leave life this way. I wanted to tell my sister I loved her, my boyfriend “thank you” for showing me a companionship I have always craved, and my parents that I know tried their best to show me love in the only way they knew. This was it.

I look out my nonexisting window to the left of me and there was a man. Being a 130 lbs female, I would usually be intimidated by a 6-foot 50-year-old muscular man standing and watching me but I was completely desperate. I said, “Sir, please help me!” He demanded that I stay still. Tears filled my eyes as I realized I had no choice, but to be still and stated again “Sir, please I am stuck.” He gave me the same demands over again. He informed me that help is on the way. It felt like years of waiting for help in that vehicle. I hear police sirens. Men begin to surround me. They are tugging at my body left and right. They had to use huge machinery to maneuver my body. I remember telling the man “Please! You are hurting me, you are crushing my foot.” They responded with “Ann, this is how we are going to get you out.” Eventually, one of the men realized that they were crushing my foot more with the machinery. They took a different approach and then, freedom. When my body was carried into the ambulance, I could feel my bones only being held into my body by my skin cartilage. Throughout my interactions with the men in uniform, I asked multiple times, “Was it my fault?” they repeatedly told me “no.” I couldn’t fathom why it was fair for my body to be completely shattered by someone else’s mistake.

I will save some time by skipping over the traumatic night of seeing gashes in previously perfect skin, now being sewed up and my body aching through various medical machines. Immediately after the first few days in the hospital, I was given an abundance amount of drugs, but the pain was always present. I broke both of my arms, both of my hips, my ankle, my foot, a few toes, and fingers, concussed, and had frostbite. An 18-year-old uninsured boy hit me head-on, going 60 mph. Considering this, I called all of my professors the next day and left voicemails that I was going to be unable to attend class. I was not going to let this stop me from accomplishing my goals. There was no time to sit in anger when I had work to accomplish.

I spent 3 weeks in the hospital. I had visitors frequently but nothing or no one could take the pain away. When I transitioned home to Chicago with my family, it was a new life. Each day then, and still 5 months later today, I have to come up with ways how to live accordingly to my new body and mind. Thankfully, I am no longer in a wheelchair or casts but there are limitations in every step I take, literally. There is discomfort and aching in every part of my body still where I have previously broken. This left me with a terrible attitude each day. I have been left with distrust of the world. If my life can almost be taken away from me so easily, everything else can too. In order to manage, I treated everything I kept dear to my heart horribly. My fears took over my communication and patience with family, my admiration for my relationship, and worse of all my sense of self-worth.

Currently, I have graduated with my bachelor’s-something I have always dreamt of. I am teaching myself self-compassion and growing into a greater version of myself. It is now up to me to gain the courage to conquer obstacles in my way and better yet; share how I have with others throughout my career path. This will impact lives in which the goals they hope to achieve and personally better their life as well.

Every day, I push myself to be better than yesterday but it is hard when you are physically unable to. I am unable to participate in activities that make me feel connected with myself most. I am unable to swim, run, drive without fear, accept my new scarred-up body, and interact with others without feeling despair for myself with jealousy that this freak accident did not happen to them. I have a strong want for someone to understand but ultimately, no one will. I instead attempt to be that person who will try relentlessly to understand others throughout my social work career. I may never be able to understand another’s path but to be a person in another’s life that they know I will not give up trying to understand, something I have always felt I needed, is what I define as success.

Now that you as a reader understand what I have been going through, I am fighting for justice in a completely unjust situation. A lot of aspects of my life are beyond my control. However, I am in control of this outcome becoming a part of my life that pushes me and others to become a stronger and better version of myself without future limitations and injustices that could come my way or others’ way. As a future school social worker and current student, I am excited to give back to adolescents to share the crucial responsibilities that should be taken for a community’s and an individual’s safety. I have first-hand experience of the outcomes of people not being aware of how much their decision-making affects the lives and futures of others. I am excited to guide individuals into the best version of themself.

Skylar Fisher

Skylar Fisher

Boise State University

Skylar's Essay

Distracted driving is the ability to be in control of a moving vehicle while not being focused on just driving. This can be shown in forms such as intoxication, using a cell phone, and even looking back and yelling at your kids. All are examples of things that distract people from looking and focusing on the road as well as their surroundings. Here is why distracted driving has come to affect me in many ways throughout my life.

The largest effect of distracted driving in the world is car accidents. When one is not paying attention to the road they are on, they tend to be able to miss what is going on in their surroundings. All car accidents could be very well avoided if at least one driver is paying attention. For example, if you see someone running a red light, you have the ability to stop moving your vehicle or just not go to avoid getting hit. In 2018 I had been involved in a car accident. It easily could have been avoided although, it wasn’t. My grandma and I were at a turning red light. It had turned green, but the person going straight did not stop. Not only did they run a red light, but they had also been under the influence of alcohol. If only my grandma had focused her attention and noticed that the car was not slowing down, she could have just not gone and the whole thing would not have happened. This car accident caused me to have back pain. I was involved in competitive cheerleading and because of this accident I was no longer able to do what was required of me without being in pain. Not only did I have to stop being involved in cheer, but it was also hard for me to go a whole academic learning day while sitting. Not only is paying attention to your surroundings important but also being a passenger paying attention to the actions of the people who are driving.

One of the biggest problems in America is people driving under the influence. Not only is it important to be able to notice someone else’ driving actions but it is also important to notice the driving actions of the people you are inside the vehicle with. In 2019-2020 my mom would drive to and from practices and school occasionally. I always thought my mom was just a horrible driver as she never was good at driving straight, she would always be texting and driving, and she would also think it was fun to be going over the speed limit. It wasn’t until my freshman year of high school in 2019 when I was learning about the signs of intoxication and the effects drugs have on people that I had realized my mom was addicted to hard drugs. Turns out that the bad driving already present, mixed with texting, and being under the influence of meth and heroin just makes the driving even more dangerous than it already was. I had begun to become afraid of being in the car while she was driving but it also had made it worse for me to be in the car at all no matter who was driving. I was always constantly afraid that she would not stop for the light, or the stop sign. I would think she would run into another car because she was swerving from lane to lane and going an absurd speed on the road. Not only did this affect me, but it also could have affected the other cars on the roads had they not been paying attention to their surroundings. Not only was my moms’ driving reckless, but so was her boyfriends’.

There were multiple times where I would be in the car with my mom and her boyfriend while they were driving. Simple grocery store runs which did not happen very often as they both were addicted to drugs and were not present in the whole parenting gig as much as my grandparents were. The driving was just about the same but more aggressive since he always thought everyone around him wanted to race. One day this became a race against the police where he was intoxicated, and the police were now chasing him down in what had been labeled as a high-speed car chase. Thankfully, I was not in the car this time. But one thing that had worried me the most was what if I were in that car and I died too? What if my siblings were in that car? The reality is that no one knows what is going to happen next. Driving is by far the activity that so many people look forward to in life, but they do not factor in the risks and responsibilities it entails.

Some ideas that I have for bringing awareness to the dangers of distracted driving would be to illustrate some examples of distracted driving. Such as, making campaigns that show the truth of how distracted driving has a high chance of ending your life or potentially even ruining your dreams of being the best in your sport(s). Showing that texting your friends as you are on your way to their house or getting high before you drive to school everyday can not only affect you but everyone else, as you are not only putting your own life in danger but others lives as well. Campaigning and proving a strong point that would scare people and make them not want to have to experience the dangers of distracted driving. Making the police department more capable of being able to arrest someone who seems to be a danger to not only themselves but to others on the roads. So much can be done to show that distracted driving from texting and driving or even yelling at your kids, is just as dangerous if not more to yourself and others as being under the influence of alcohol or an uncontrolled illegal substance on the roads.

Trinity Nielsen

Trinity Nielsen

High School Senior

Trinity's Essay

Distracted driving is something that affects everyone everyday, from texting to eating to drinking while driving. While distracted driving does not always lead to an accident, it is always associated with some level of risk that can negatively impact both the victim and the driver. Even small distractions can turn into life-altering accidents.

On May 6, 2020 distracted driving drastically impacted my family and another’s life. My mother went on a morning walk at the same time my neighbor left for work. It was a small thing, but he leaned over to plug in his phone, which caused him to swerve and hit her. Help came quickly, but unfortunately my mother was pronounced dead on the scene. The news devastated me. She was my best friend. This type of accident could have happened to anyone, but unfortunately in this case it was my mother and my neighbor. My poor neighbor felt guilty and faced charges for the accident. My family chose to forgive him and dropped the charges, however, the guilt will always stick with him. My mother’s death devastated my family, and I can not comprehend how that small, unintentional distraction led to it nor the associated guilt. I have come to terms with the accident and have forgiven our neighbor (who really is an amazing guy) for his mistake. Distracted driving can affect anyone, and it will continue to, unless we commit to changing our habits. I don’t wish the negative consequences distracted driving has had on my family on anyone.

Distracted driving is something I personally never even worried about until this experience. The odds of what happened to my mother are very low, and the scenario was pretty unlikely. No matter how small the risk is, however, driving responsibly needs to be taken more seriously. Distracted driving will never be fully eliminated, but we need to take better steps at preventing it. The roads can only really be as safe as the safest driver. I have three main ideas and proposals to eliminate these everyday distractions. More public education needs to be provided, more reminders should be posted on the side of roads and online, and screen time limitations should be established on phones.

Distracted driving is taught in drivers’ education, but it is not really taught much beyond that. A popular school program is D.A.R.E, a program that teaches students about the harmful effects of drugs and alcohol. An officer is usually trained to teach this program, and it would be beneficial to set up a similar program for high school students taught by driving instructors. This program would be called Distracted Driving Prevention Program (DDPP) and would educate young drivers of the risks of distracted driving and how to prevent them. It would be beneficial to start by requiring schools to hold assemblies or class meetings that teach students the significance of distracted driving through people’s stories and driving instructors' perspectives. This program would target high school students, however awareness should not stop there. DDPP newsletters would be sent via email to community members and would include similar lessons that help bring more awareness to the issue and would hopefully reach a larger audience. Stories should also be published and featured in commercials more frequently targeted toward older age groups who may not use technology as frequently. Having stories shared and lessons taught on the threats of distracted driving will help, however it still is not enough; community members would also benefit from frequent reminders of these lessons and stories.

In my community there is only one bulletin board advertising the dangers of texting and driving, but it is not on a very frequently traveled road. If more bulletin boards and signs depicting personal experiences were posted alongside roads, drivers would have reminders of the importance of safe driving. Slogans for these signs could include The roads are only as safe as the safest driver or A text is not worth a life. These simple reminders could be posted alongside busy roads where most accidents occur. Although we may know the dangers of distracted driving, we all need constant reminders. It would also be beneficial to have a website dedicated to sharing personal experiences. Experiences should be shared by both the victim and the driver, as both are equally important. These stories should be shared in effort to increase awareness and create safer roads. This website would be shared in the DDPP program, in the newsletter, and posted on signs and bulletin boards. Personal stories and experiences would help people take distracted driving seriously. Even with education and public reminders, there would still be many individuals who ignore the threat, so some restrictions may have to be enforced.

Phones are the leading cause of distracted driving; this is no secret. Texting and driving occurs daily, and the only way for it to truly be limited is if phone manufacturers support limitations. If phone manufacturers added a feature to phones that limits screen usage while driving, the roads would be much safer. Drivers would still be able to take calls, skip songs, and listen to audiobooks. When the phone recognizes the car’s auxiliary cord or bluetooth and senses the car in motion, the phone should be limited to the home screen. Texts would still show on the screen, but would be inaccessible to the user until the car is parked. Besides regular accessible features on the home screen, the phone would be disabled. This idea may be upsetting, however, it would not be nearly as upsetting as losing a family member. Texting and driving is illegal; these features would promote safety, enforce the law, and eliminate distractions.

Educational programs, posting reminders, and limiting phone access will change the conditions of the roads and promote safe driving. These ideas seem like small insignificant steps, but they will save lives. They are all steps closer to preventing the threats of distracted driving.

Jessica Vickery

Jessica Vickery

University of Notre Dame

Jessica's Essay

“I thought the road was clear…” “I wasn’t even going that fast…” “I only looked down for a second…” These are words that are spoken by teens after a phone related car accident. While these statements are merely hypothetical, they are the type of phrases that run through the mind of my peers and even my mind when we decide to look at our phones while drive. Although 77% of young adults/teens believe that they can safely text and drive, 11 teens die every day as a result of texting and driving (Carpey). As technology begins to become more of a necessity in everyday life, it becomes more important to find ways to encourage people to put down their cell phones. By spreading awareness of the dangers associated with distracted driving and through the usage of technology to prevent cell phone use while driving, the dangerous habits and behaviors related to distracted driving may be prevented.

The issue of distracted driving is very important to me beucase it has had a profound impact on someone very close to me in my life: my mother. Before I was born, my mom was in a very serious accident. She used to be an entertainment reporter on TV, until, while on her way to the airport to travel for work, she was struck by a distracted driver on a two-lane highway. This driver hit her head on in a Ford F-150 and she suffered a traumatic brain injury and a compound fracture of her left leg, almost losing the leg at her hip. After several years of rehabilitation, my mom, while unable to return to her previous work, did get well enough to take care of my older sister, who had been five months old at the time of the accident. My Mom focused on what she could do in life, and that was being a great parent to four daughters. My Mom, while still having short term memory loss and aphasia today, still focuses on what she can do, instead of what she cannot. She lives in the moment, does not dwell on the past, and treats everyone she meets as if they are the only person in the room. She went from fame to anonymity, from getting her hair and make-up done to doing four heads of hair before school, and from eating catered food to making lunches for us every day. That was my childhood growing up. I never noticed a difference in my mom but the car accident that almost took her life away (and mine and my two unborn sister’s lives too) looms over my family’s head every day. We were lucky. My mom’s brain injury and compound fracture were lucky. But there is no reason for people to hope for “luck” when distracted driving is involved. Distracted driving shouldn’t even be an issue to be considered. People need to understand the dangers of distracted driving so that accidents are prevented because the next family with a five-month-old child may not be as “lucky” as my own family.

Although people believe that they are able to text and drive without causing an accident, the statistics show that people distracted by their cell phone are highly more likely to get into an accident. According to the article, “Texting While Driving Accidents,” an individual is 23 times more likely to cause an accident if they are texting while driving (Carpey). Young adults may reconsider their ability to text and drive if they learn this statistic. People use the excuse that they only look away from the road for a few seconds; however, those “few seconds” a person spends looking at their phone is a football field length of road. Most people do not realize how much distance they travel in such a short span of time, nor do they realize the danger they put themselves and other drivers in while on the road. No message is that important that it can’t wait until it can be safely sent and received. It’s important for my peers to understand the real dangers of driving distracted. A few “scare straight” videos during driver’s education aren’t enough. A single “omw” or “lol” could change a person’s life forever and my peers don’t realize the magnitude of that change. There are ways to prevent distraction while driving but they are all voluntary. With the knowledge of the dangers of driver, my peers may be more likely to use these voluntary preventions of phone usage, saving the lives of themselves and others.

The first step to prevent distracted driving is awareness of its dangers. One awareness campaign is called U Drive. U Text. U Pay. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) holds this campaign in the month of April so drivers may understand the risk of texting and driving. According to data collected by NHSTA, over the course of 2012 to 2020, more than 29,000 people died in crashes related to distracted driving (NHSTA). Law enforcement involved in the campaign spread this information and are encouraged to focus on drivers with the highest likelihood of dying in a distraction-related car crash (ages 18 to 34). When an individual is pulled over for texting, the officer educates them on the dangers of distracted driving and gives them the information necessary to stop their habit. This type of campaign needs to be more widespread within small community. Although this campaign may be known on a national scale in a general sense, it is most important to have smaller campaigns like these in communities. Safe driving habits does not only have to be followed in April but all year around. Officers can describe the need for safe driving on any and all routine traffic stops so that more people are encouraged to practice safe driving habits. In addition to the encouragement by officers to drive safe, the greatest help, according to the campaign advice, are friends and family. Everyone in the car must be an example and tell the driver to put down the phone if they are using it while driving. (NHSTA). The best way to answer that text or talk over the phone while driving is allowing the passenger to be in control of the phone. There isn’t a text so important that the driver has to be the one who answers it. To remain safe and keep others safe is the most important thing for the driver to focus on.

Outside of understanding the dangers of distracted driving, people must take steps to stop the distractions. Through many impressive cell phone applications like Do Not Disturb and Life 360, people can follow safe driving practices and avoid the temptation to pick up the phone. The most difficult part about remaining focused on the road is the constant sounds a phone can be making. The dings from Instagram and chimes of Tik Tok makes people feel like they are missing out, even if the drive is only for fifteen minutes. This is why the temptation to use the phone is so great and which is why “out of sight (or sound!), out of mind” is the best way to stop practicing distracted driving habits. The best phone applications to prevent usage are those that stop the sounds and alerts from coming through. It is difficult, however, to get usage of these types of apps. Since they are voluntary applications, people must choose for themselves to participate in safe driving practices. A factor that encourages people to use these apps is the abundance of distracted driving statistics. If people learned of the facts behind distracted driving, they may be more inclined to use the distraction prevention apps. A great addition to these apps would be one that gives these statistics to the user then offers the option to turn on the safe driving function. This may push more people to use the apps.

It is important to use the knowledge of distracted driving dangers and phone technology to prevent distracted driving. The act of doing anything but driving increases the likelihood of an accident. Through facts learned during Driving Awareness Month, it is found that eating while driving makes it three times more likely to have an accident, reaching for an object is eight times more likely, and texting is a huge twenty-three times more likely. People need to understand these dangers and stop participating in distracted driving behavior. We must try and spread awareness and stop the deaths and injuries related to this dangerous habit. That way, no family needs to be worried about the life they could have had or the children that were left unborn because the mother died due to a meaningless text like “lol”.

“I thought the road was clear…” “I wasn’t even going that fast…” “I only looked down for a second…” These are words that are spoken by teens after a phone related car accident. While these statements are merely hypothetical, they are the type of phrases that run through the mind of my peers and even my mind when we decide to look at our phones while drive. Although 77% of young adults/teens believe that they can safely text and drive, 11 teens die every day as a result of texting and driving (Carpey). As technology begins to become more of a necessity in everyday life, it becomes more important to find ways to encourage people to put down their cell phones. By spreading awareness of the dangers associated with distracted driving and through the usage of technology to prevent cell phone use while driving, the dangerous habits and behaviors related to distracted driving may be prevented.

The issue of distracted driving is very important to me beucase it has had a profound impact on someone very close to me in my life: my mother. Before I was born, my mom was in a very serious accident. She used to be an entertainment reporter on TV, until, while on her way to the airport to travel for work, she was struck by a distracted driver on a two-lane highway. This driver hit her head on in a Ford F-150 and she suffered a traumatic brain injury and a compound fracture of her left leg, almost losing the leg at her hip. After several years of rehabilitation, my mom, while unable to return to her previous work, did get well enough to take care of my older sister, who had been five months old at the time of the accident. My Mom focused on what she could do in life, and that was being a great parent to four daughters. My Mom, while still having short term memory loss and aphasia today, still focuses on what she can do, instead of what she cannot. She lives in the moment, does not dwell on the past, and treats everyone she meets as if they are the only person in the room. She went from fame to anonymity, from getting her hair and make-up done to doing four heads of hair before school, and from eating catered food to making lunches for us every day. That was my childhood growing up. I never noticed a difference in my mom but the car accident that almost took her life away (and mine and my two unborn sister’s lives too) looms over my family’s head every day. We were lucky. My mom’s brain injury and compound fracture were lucky. But there is no reason for people to hope for “luck” when distracted driving is involved. Distracted driving shouldn’t even be an issue to be considered. People need to understand the dangers of distracted driving so that accidents are prevented because the next family with a five-month-old child may not be as “lucky” as my own family.

Although people believe that they are able to text and drive without causing an accident, the statistics show that people distracted by their cell phone are highly more likely to get into an accident. According to the article, “Texting While Driving Accidents,” an individual is 23 times more likely to cause an accident if they are texting while driving (Carpey). Young adults may reconsider their ability to text and drive if they learn this statistic. People use the excuse that they only look away from the road for a few seconds; however, those “few seconds” a person spends looking at their phone is a football field length of road. Most people do not realize how much distance they travel in such a short span of time, nor do they realize the danger they put themselves and other drivers in while on the road. No message is that important that it can’t wait until it can be safely sent and received. It’s important for my peers to understand the real dangers of driving distracted. A few “scare straight” videos during driver’s education aren’t enough. A single “omw” or “lol” could change a person’s life forever and my peers don’t realize the magnitude of that change. There are ways to prevent distraction while driving but they are all voluntary. With the knowledge of the dangers of driver, my peers may be more likely to use these voluntary preventions of phone usage, saving the lives of themselves and others.

The first step to prevent distracted driving is awareness of its dangers. One awareness campaign is called U Drive. U Text. U Pay. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) holds this campaign in the month of April so drivers may understand the risk of texting and driving. According to data collected by NHSTA, over the course of 2012 to 2020, more than 29,000 people died in crashes related to distracted driving (NHSTA). Law enforcement involved in the campaign spread this information and are encouraged to focus on drivers with the highest likelihood of dying in a distraction-related car crash (ages 18 to 34). When an individual is pulled over for texting, the officer educates them on the dangers of distracted driving and gives them the information necessary to stop their habit. This type of campaign needs to be more widespread within small community. Although this campaign may be known on a national scale in a general sense, it is most important to have smaller campaigns like these in communities. Safe driving habits does not only have to be followed in April but all year around. Officers can describe the need for safe driving on any and all routine traffic stops so that more people are encouraged to practice safe driving habits. In addition to the encouragement by officers to drive safe, the greatest help, according to the campaign advice, are friends and family. Everyone in the car must be an example and tell the driver to put down the phone if they are using it while driving. (NHSTA). The best way to answer that text or talk over the phone while driving is allowing the passenger to be in control of the phone. There isn’t a text so important that the driver has to be the one who answers it. To remain safe and keep others safe is the most important thing for the driver to focus on.

Outside of understanding the dangers of distracted driving, people must take steps to stop the distractions. Through many impressive cell phone applications like Do Not Disturb and Life 360, people can follow safe driving practices and avoid the temptation to pick up the phone. The most difficult part about remaining focused on the road is the constant sounds a phone can be making. The dings from Instagram and chimes of Tik Tok makes people feel like they are missing out, even if the drive is only for fifteen minutes. This is why the temptation to use the phone is so great and which is why “out of sight (or sound!), out of mind” is the best way to stop practicing distracted driving habits. The best phone applications to prevent usage are those that stop the sounds and alerts from coming through. It is difficult, however, to get usage of these types of apps. Since they are voluntary applications, people must choose for themselves to participate in safe driving practices. A factor that encourages people to use these apps is the abundance of distracted driving statistics. If people learned of the facts behind distracted driving, they may be more inclined to use the distraction prevention apps. A great addition to these apps would be one that gives these statistics to the user then offers the option to turn on the safe driving function. This may push more people to use the apps.

It is important to use the knowledge of distracted driving dangers and phone technology to prevent distracted driving. The act of doing anything but driving increases the likelihood of an accident. Through facts learned during Driving Awareness Month, it is found that eating while driving makes it three times more likely to have an accident, reaching for an object is eight times more likely, and texting is a huge twenty-three times more likely. People need to understand these dangers and stop participating in distracted driving behavior. We must try and spread awareness and stop the deaths and injuries related to this dangerous habit. That way, no family needs to be worried about the life they could have had or the children that were left unborn because the mother died due to a meaningless text like “lol”.

Hana Holman

Hana Holman

Loyola University Chicago

Hana's Essay

Lately, it seems as though everyone on the road is distracted. As I drive, I often look to my left and right to find drivers next to me texting, speaking on the phone, or even watching a video. I once heard the saying, how someone drives in the car with you is a reflection of how much they care about your life or their own, and it has been something I have taken to heart. Every time someone gets in a vehicle, it is a risk for the driver and those surrounded by them. The way one drives can increase that risk, too.

The first car accident I have ever been in was on December 24th, 2021, on the way to church. It was Christmas Eve, and I was the passenger of my mom’s vehicle. We were approaching a light that had just changed from yellow to red, and so my mom stopped at the intersection. I have always had a habit of looking in the side view mirror even if I am not the one driving, so I looked in the right side-view mirror and noticed a pick-up truck approaching at an extremely rapid pace for there being a red light ahead. I remember my eyes watching as he quickly approached, saying, “he’s going to hit us.” And then, with only about 7 minutes left of a 45-minute drive, our stopped car was rear-ended at about 55 mph by a distracted driver who did not realize that the light was red because he was looking at his cell phone at the time.

Luckily, our car was still driveable, and no one had any major injuries. I left that day with my first concussion, resulting in some bad headaches and sensitivity to light and sound. Luckily, this lasted only a few days, but what I took from that day was far worse: Anxiety. I have struggled with anxiety for many years, but I have always felt as though I handle it quite well. I

use breathing techniques, self talk, safe objects, among other strategies to get me by. Nonetheless, it still manages to creep in and defy all my strategies every so often.

Since the accident, the anxiety that I thought was well-managed began to overtake my life. Every time I was in a car, whether driving or passenger, my eyes were glued to my rear and side view mirrors. Not only so, but I would audibly gasp at intersections in which a car was approaching mine at a stopped light. Due to this, I started to prefer driving on highways and expressways, where my fear of my stopped car being rear-ended only ceased to exist if there was traffic. If I was driving, I was constantly looking into cars next to me on the road to see what the drivers were doing. If a driver appeared to be texting, eating, or distracting themself in some other way, I would switch lanes, slow down, or speed ahead to get away from them. The same would go for if I noticed a car near me was swerving.

The anxiety of being in a car took over my life for months, and I worried that my ability to drive would soon come to an end. As my mom began to notice my tendencies in the car, she suggested that I focus on what I can do to keep myself safe rather than focusing on the actions of others. She coached me through how to accept what I cannot control and focus on what I can. While this event is still fairly recent, I continue to have days where I catch myself obsessively looking at my mirrors at intersections, holding my breath, biting my lip, or audibly gasping at the fear that I am about to be hit. However, I am able to quickly catch myself, take a deep breath, and let it go; something I worried I would never be able to do.

While this is one incident that has affected my life personally, I have friends and family members who have experienced far worse. In 2019, a distant friend of mine was on his bike and hit by a car; he has suffered a traumatic brain injury, a diffuse axonal injury, and several strokes

as a result. He will never be the same again because a person could not wait to send a text message.

Upon further research, I found that in 2019, more than 3,100 people were killed and slightly less than half of a million people were injured as a result of distracted driving in the United States. Since 2019, I fear where these numbers will be this year with the advancement of technology since then. I believe raising awareness of the dangers of distracted driving to prevent this behavior from happening begins not only in driver’s education but also in schools. Oftentimes, high schools will have speakers come for a seminar to educate students on a specific topic. While I believe this is important, I believe schools should provide speeches more than just once a year. As a visual learner, I find importance in hearing others’ stories and seeing examples of unwanted versus wanted behavior. I feel this is a really helpful, effective way to raise awareness of the dangers of distracted driving.

Sometimes, preventing distracted driving feels impossible and hopeless. But, I believe that it only feels this way because there are not enough young people and drivers who speak up about it, call their friends out on their poor actions, and so forth. I believe in the power of leading by example and educating those around you. Doing so can be extremely powerful especially when it comes to a younger generation. Oftentimes, young people do certain activities because it looks cool, their friends do it, or because no one is telling them to stop. If we can all find comfort in speaking up for the safety of ourselves and others, the world would be a much safer place. And maybe, just maybe, those numbers would drop.

Ciara Jones

Ciara Jones

University of Colorado Colorado Springs

Ciara's Essay

In the central region of the field, I stood perfectly still disoriented by the unreal situation presented before me. An unreasonably beautiful sunny day for the situation presented before me, as if the world carries forward without disregard of the life just taken. A hole, twelve feet deep, with a casket above it being lowered down slowly becoming one with the Earth’s lithosphere. The fading view of the casket as it submerged felt surreal as I heard the cries of my aunts, cousins, grandmother, father, and friends who were burying someone who was taken too soon. Yet, in the midst of this I did not move a muscle, emotionless, and honestly utterly confused. What I just experienced could not be true, it could not have happened. My cousin, who I grew up with and was practically a brother to me, died in a tragic car accident, one of such force that we could not view his lifeless body in the coffin since a considerable portion of his skull was not intact. Through the entire funeral I did not shed a single tear. I felt there was something wrong with me, for not crying, when in reality the human brain simply cannot process such sudden loss.

Three weeks prior, Michael, moved to Grass Valley, California to seek happiness in his life. His decision to move a mere three-thousand miles away saddened the family, yet his journey for happiness brought joy to the us for what is to come for him. What was unexpected was three weeks after his move Michael died. Witness statements claimed his vehicle was so far off the road that you could barely see it through the plunge off the hill he took. The police report stated his green Tacoma did not navigate the turn in the rainy, icy roads and slid off to reach a stop when it slammed into an oak tree. The medical report stated that the oak tree almost instantaneously killed him. As if that would bring peace to the situation. Two days, that we feared for him as he did not answer his phone, being unaware of his whereabouts was concluded when the Police department finally identified Michael and called informing us of the tragedy. Ten days later his funeral that I depicted earlier took place. Later we would learn the true result of his fateful car accident that killed him: distracted driving. Reports claimed this accident was what killed him, yet in my mind he was executed. Executed by his iPhone. The addictive nature of smartphones distracted him for a mere second that costed him his life. The tragic accident that ripped a softball size portion of his skull out was a result of distracted driving. The oak tree he slammed into that left him with ‘little suffering’ images the severity of distracted driving. The severity of the damage that mere second can inflict onto a human. A person. An entire family. According to the CDC in 2019, over 3,100 were killed by distracted driving. Michael James Paul Houlihan was one of them. Not just a statistic, but a person. Whose family has been and still is devasted by his absence. Distracted driving has directly impacted my life by killing my cousin. His passing has caused me immense pain and every year on February 9 when I attend his yearly mass, I relive the day when his casket was lowered into the ground.

To continue, death is painful to all individuals and their family. But avoidable death curates hundreds of emotions and ‘what ifs.’ What if Michael never moved to California? What if Grandma Anne never bought him the Green Tacoma? What if he never was on that road? What if phones never existed? All the anger and confusion in attempt to imagine an alternate universe where my cousin was still here with us. Michael promised me when I was fourteen that he would be the officiant at my one-day wedding. Now I do not have my officiant. I do not have my cousin. My cousin who we spent summers swimming and nights playing Mario Kart on the game cube when I was eight. I will one day have to find a different officiant when I am getting married and, on that day, which is supposed to be the happiest day of my life I will look to my left and see a foreign individual. Someone who is not Michael. A person in the place of Michael, and on that day, I will feel saddened by his absence because three years later I still miss him. I try to imagine his voice, but as painful as it is to type I cannot remember it. I wish I could tell him about my boyfriend, who I have been dating for three years, and I believe this will be the person who he would’ve been officiating our one-day marriage. When I tell people about Michael, I just have to describe him. They cannot meet his contagious laugh and his kind soul. The only way I can show them Michael is through a photo because distracted driving took his life. I always looked up to Michael and thought it was meant to be that he was left-handed like myself, even though he injured his right hand with a hammer and that why he was left-handed. I now remember Michael through my memories. I talk to him through my prayers. I wish I could have a conversation with him about how I am now attending college, to be the first in the family to. But I cannot. This angers me. Infuriates me. His life was taken and one of my childhood friends was taken from me. More importantly, his life was taken from him. He is unable to get married, enjoy his favorite meals, go see the world because of distracted driving. He was not able to find the happiness that he went to California searching for because he was painfully killed. Phones addiction can be seen in all areas of our lives. People walking on sidewalks bumping into you, children at the dinner table glued to their screen, teachers fighting for students’ attention in the classroom, and people fighting the urge to check the buzz from their phone while driving. One in five people in fatal car accidents are killed by distracted driving. In a vehicle that possesses countless distractions phones should not be one of them. Yet in this country phone addiction is a problem, and distracted driving is an epidemic. Driving to my work I cannot count on my ten fingers and ten toes the number of individuals I witness on their phones. Myself, I have been one of them. Quickly reaching for my phone to respond to a text or select a different song. For fleeting moments Michael’s fate slips out of my mind but when I reenter reality I am disgusted by my actions. The actions that could have killed me, but even other individuals around who are driving, biking, or walking.

Furthermore, solutions exist to prevent more accidents and heart ache like Michael and the thousand other victims. I believe police officers should pull over all individuals on their phones and award a hefty fine for their actions. I have witnessed officers themselves on their personal cellular devices while driving. Although the law exists of not being on your phone while driving, more enforcement should occur. Other solutions have been created to help fight distracted driving also. Apple Inc., the creator of iPhone created the feature of ‘Do not Disturb Driving’ which disables all notifications when driving except emergency notifications. In fact, this alerts who is attempting to contact you that you are currently driving, which can eliminate others spamming an individual’s phone trying to reach them. I believe that all phones should have this enabled, perhaps against will. Many might become annoyed or angered by being ‘controlled’ enforcing such a feature, yet I argue a lifesaving feature is protecting individuals and those around them. All people believe that it will not happen to them and anyone they know, yet it happened to Michael and my family. The past four years at my high school’s graduation there has been an empty chair in memory of a student who has been lost by distracted driving. A solution so simple to not be on a phone while driving seems uncomplicated to request, yet clearly is needed with the numbers of lives lost by distracted driving. I do not want to see another family have to endure the pain of losing a loved one by something that is entirely avoidable. Put your phone down and look at the road, there are people who love you and your absence inflicts unimaginable pain years after your passing.

Onward, I believe if those these cannot be instated then the responsibility lies in our own hands and those around us. To eliminate distracted driving, it originates with us to avoid being statistics seemingly glanced at. I now keep my phone on the floor of my passenger seat. Yes, I am aware it sounds silly and ridiculous, but I cannot reach my phone at that point of my car regardless of how much I try. I urge all those reading it that they should place their phone in a location in their car that they cannot reach it or be tempted to touch it. This requires you to access yourself as an individual. Personally, I do not have self-control and know I would be tempted by a Snapchat notification; therefore, my phones place in my car is the furthest and most unreachable place in my vehicle. Likewise, accountability is essential in this. When your sibling, parent, or friend reaches for their phone while operating a vehicle you must urge them to not touch it and remind them that they are responsible for their life, yours, and all those around you. A notification can wait, yet when a second mistake leads to death no individual will have the opportunity to take their notifications to the grave with them. In school we learn various of life lessons and academic information to mold us into who we become. Thus, short courses should be required for graduation to understand the severity of distracted driving. I believe students should view a real-life car after an accident of distracted driving and should view photos of fatal and critical injuries these accidents have left individuals similar to them. I believe if you saw the photo of Michaels skull which now has a quarter missing it would enable any individual to reconsider if that notification is truly worth it. I believe that distracted driving is avoidable and that the responsibility of driving a vehicle requires the self-restraint to ignore our phone.

To conclude, distracted driving has impacted my life. The decision to check a notification impacted Michael Houlihan’s life by taking it. Distracted driving impacted my aunt’s life, Michael’s mother who felt dead inside by the absence of her son. The accident impacted his siblings, my cousins, by having them no longer have their younger brother. This impacted my grandmother, who realistically was supposed to die before her 28-year-old grandson. His death is one of thousands that occur each year, impacting thousands of families. I would say time brought peace to the family and contentment to rest with his passing. But it hasn’t, at least certainly not yet. He died, a horrific painful death alone, a death that was entirely avoidable. I would say that we don’t blame him, but I think in a part of all of our brains we wished that he was not on his phone or that simply smartphones didn’t exist at all. Regret, sorrow, and anger all fills me with the reality that my cousin who I grew up with died. Accountability must occur with police officers and within us to prevent these accidents from happening. Self-control and properly moving the phone away while driving should occur when operating a vehicle. All students should attend seminars educating on this topic to deter them from carrying out this action behind the wheel. Michael, who did not find that happiness he was searching for, no longer has the chance to live his life, yet I do. You do. All who are reading this have the opportunity to educate themselves and those in their lives of the danger and impact of distracted driving and should do so. To prevent horrific accidents like Michael who was ultimately taken too soon.

Morgan M. Purtill

Morgan M. Purtill

Loyola University Chicago

Morgan's Essay

When I was young, I was in a car accident with my dad, and the driver who hit us was on his phone. Thankfully, neither of us suffered any major injuries, but this was the first time I realized how irresponsible many people were on the road. As I got older, I heard stories about deadly accidents from the firemen, EMTs, and state troopers in my family, and driver safety was very important to all of them. My Uncle was a state trooper, and he was on highway patrol a lot towards the end of his career. He retired at the beginning of March this year. He told me that majority of accidents that he saw were caused by people using their phones behind the wheel. I believe that the best way to prevent distracted driving is to require driver education in all 50 states. Only 31 out of 50 US states require their citizens to take a driver's education course in order to receive their license. A lack of driver's education makes the roads incredibly dangerous for all. Without learning about the dangers of distracted driving from seasoned instructors, it is likely that many new drivers will use their cell phones behind the wheel without learning about the real consequences.

In order to make the roads safer across the country, it is pertinent that more states should require driver's education. Those who already do should expand the ages required to take it because in many states only minors are required to take driver education. Regardless of age, drivers' education plays an important role in decreasing the number of accidents and deaths among all drivers. A study was conducted in Ohio and published to the National Library of Medicine regarding this topic. In Ohio, teens that are 16 must take driver's education to receive their license. According to this study, fewer accidents, injuries, and fatalities occurred among educated drivers compared to uneducated drivers.1To reduce the number of vehicular deaths and unsafe, distracted driving, the age requirement in most states should be extended for drivers' education, and states who do not require it should mandate it.

Drivers' education is only one factor that can reduce the number of people who drive unsafely. However, there are some people who will continue to ignore what they’ve learned, and they will regularly use their cell phone behind the wheel. Roughly 1 in 4 car accidents can be attributed to texting and driving. This means that about 390,000 injuries occur annually due to distracted drivers. To combat this, most states have made it illegal to use a cellular device behind the wheel, and those who are pulled over will receive a hefty ticket. Also, some individuals do want to drive safe, but they have a hard time disconnecting while on the road. Luckily, there are a couple of things to help with that! By putting your phone on do not disturb, you will not be tempted to respond to any messages because you would not know if you received a text message. However, if there is an emergency where you need to have your phone available, do not resort to texting and driving. Instead, use Bluetooth. Using Bluetooth devices will allow you to safely make phone calls and text messages while staying focused on the road.

Since I have taken drivers education and silence my phone on the road, I have never been the cause of an accident. I learned a lot about the rules of the road, and when I got my license, I felt readily prepared for any situation. From my own experiences, I know that preparedness will not prevent others from causing harm. Last year one of my closest friends had finally received her driver's license after completing her driver education. On her way home from the DMV with her mother, a man who was texting and driving had run a red light and hit them in the intersection. My friends mother had to be hospitalized due to her injuries and their car was completely totaled. She was a brand new driver, and she had taken all the right steps to be sure that she was safe on the road, but still, due to the irresponsibility of others, her mother was almost killed. If you drive, you may be asking yourself what kinds of steps can you take to help others become safer drivers.

To start, if you have friends or family in your life who text and drive, express your concerns to them kindly. Talk about how texting and driving makes you feel, share your experiences with them, and be patient. Change does not happen overnight, so it is important to be consistent with those you care about. Another way to advocate for driver safety on a larger scale is to turn to social media. Sharing important resources and statistics online will spread your message rather quickly. You can broadcast the importance of driver education to a larger audience and make a bigger impact. If driver's education is not required or hard to access in your state, reach out to your Secretary of the State’s office to see what you can do.

If you have the opportunity to take driver's education, do it. You could save your own life and others by doing so. Safe, undistracted driving practices will pave the way for safer roads in your community and across America. Many members of my family have seen others tragically lose their loved ones because of uneducated and unsafe drivers. Do not be the one responsible for the loss of someones loved one and take driver's education. Drive safe!

Nathaniel Smith

Nathaniel Smith

The University of Central Florida

Nathaniel's Essay

I have personally seen the aftermath of distracted driving and the lasting effects it can have on people. As a medic in the Army, I have been trained to respond to emergency situations and treat patients in life threatening conditions. Therefore, when I see car accidents with no medical professionals on the scene yet, I pull over to help. Over the last couple of years, I have watched multiple horrific car crashes take place and come upon several crashes only moments after they happened. I have found people unconscious, missing limbs, with broken bones, in all kinds of different conditions. After treating any immediate injuries that can’t wait, some of the first questions I ask a patient in a car crash are “have you had anything to drink today?”, “do you have any medical conditions I should know about?”, and “were you on your phone or distracted when you got in the accident?”.

You would be surprised by how many people initially admit they were on their phone, focusing on their child in the back seat, or distracted by something else in their surroundings when the accident occurred. When people are in shock, they are not able to process the idea to lie and protect themselves from getting in trouble, they aren’t able to think clearly, and are usually very honest and upfront. Once their body finally calms down and then they start changing their story. It may seem weird to most people for me to ask questions like this because I am not the police, and therefore it isn’t my job to figure out what caused the accident, just to help the patient. While this is true, the answers to these questions can drastically change the methods I use to help treat a patient’s injuries. If a patient has a seizure after the accident, knowing that they were distracted when the accident took place helps me establish that the seizure was more likely a result of a head injury during the accident rather than the cause of the accident. Knowing if someone has been drinking is very important in situations that may require me to administer medications to stop a seizure or give immediate pain relief for serious injuries. Many of the medications I may have to administer have serious and negative effects when interacting with alcohol. I brought up the different kinds of injuries that have I have seen from car accidents because I have unfortunately seen the serious effects that distracted driving can have. I have had to experience people struggling to even stay alive, missing limbs that they will go without for the rest of their lives, and I have unfortunately encountered those who didn’t survive the car accident and I couldn’t do anything to save. Seeing these things has had a lasting effect on the way I think of things and the decisions I make on a daily basis regarding my driving habits.

I have severe attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), so I of all people know exactly how easy it is to get distracted by things around me and the random thoughts popping into my head about things that took place hours ago. With this in mind, I take precautions to minimize my distractions while driving and do my best to return my focus to driving when distractions do occur. For starters, I have my phone set to automatically enter Do Not Disturb as soon as it connects to my car. It only allows text messages and phone calls to come through my Apple CarPlay system in my car. I no longer receive notifications for Snapchat, Instagram, and other apps that can wait until I finish my drive. It also restricts the usage of my phone so that I can only send and receive text/calls using the hands-free functions of my car, not allowing me to pick up and use the phone itself. I think it is simple precautions like this that everyone should take when driving. No notification or message is ever worth risking your life or the lives of those around you. In addition to attempting to prevent distractions, I also make sure that when other things distract me from driving, such as an interesting conversation I’m having with one of my passengers or something cool taking place on the side of the road, I do my best to refocus my brain at the task at hand, in this case, driving. This concept may seem silly to some, but simply reminding oneself to focus on driving when distractions occur rather than continuing to focus on the distracting event, can make a huge difference.

I believe a way to help prevent these terrible incidents from happening is to have paramedics, firefighters, police officers, and other first responders who see these situations every day, go and talk to high school students who are about to start driving or have started driving already. I have been affected by the accidents I have seen by complete chance over the last couple of years. First responders see the aftermath of these accidents every day and live with the effects that distracted driving results in. I think that it would be beneficial for first responders to go to high schools in their area and talk to the students about the dangers of distracted driving and the lifelong and sometimes life-ending consequences it can have. I realize that high schoolers are still “kids” and that this is a lot for them to take in and expose them to, but I also realize that being allowed to drive is a huge responsibility and a privilege. I believe that if they want to take on the responsibility that comes with this privilege, then they should know the consequences of not doing so safely.

All in all, as someone who has first-hand seen the aftermath of distracted driving, I believe that allowing driving aged students to understand the possible consequences that come with distracted driving will help prevent as many incidents from happening. Schools often teach about drinking and driving but not nearly as often do schools teach about distracted driving. Whether it is using a cell phone, looking at a rainbow in the sky, or responding to a screaming child, all of these are distractions that can wait until one is no longer driving. It is one thing to learn about these things in a textbook or health class, but to hear from people like first responders who see the aftermath daily, would have a much larger effect on young drivers and help to prevent as many of these incidents from happening in the future.

Peter Yehl

Peter Yehl

Iowa State University

Peter's Essay

Unfortunately, distracted driving is something that has become more prevalent among drivers. I believe that the biggest reason there has been an increase in distracted driving is due to cell phones and technology in general. According to the National Safety Council, talking and texting while driving accounts for 26% of all car crashes. The percentage soars to over 58% when talking about teen crashes. That fact is both shocking and tragic. The most concerning thing about this statistic is that distracted driving is preventable. The U.S. Department of Transportation's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported that over 3,000 people lost their lives in 2019 because of distracted driving. As I think about the many lives that are lost every year due to distracted driving, I realize those accidents could have been avoided if only the driver had either put the phone down, stopped using the GPS, or quit adjusting the music channels.

Distracted driving has affected me personally in several different ways. The most common occurrences that I see on the road is when someone in front of me either weaves in their lane or stops at a light and then doesn't go when it turns green right away. Each time I have noticed these behaviors on the road, more often than not, I see the person on the phone talking or texting. In just a split second, those drivers could cause an accident that could take their lives away as well as someone else's.

Another way distracted driving has affected me is when I learned that a friend of mine was in an accident due to a distracted driver hitting him in an intersection. I had just said goodbye to this friend moments before the accident happened. When he approached the intersection to turn left, his light turned green and he started to go. The other driver, who was on the opposite side of the intersection, admitted she was distracted because she noticed her light turned red but did not have enough time to stop. Therefore, she tried to run the red light and get through the intersection. Thankfully, everyone was okay, but it could have been much worse. The most important lesson I learned from my friend's accident was that I need to try to drive more defensively because the other driver could be preoccupied. I need to be aware of potential problems and try to avoid them. By anticipating what someone else could do, this gives me an idea of how to react to the other drivers.

The third way distracted driving has made an impact on me is from a story my mom told me when I started to learn to drive. When she was 16 years old, she was in a terrible accident that resulted in the death of one of her friends. The reason she wanted me to know about this accident is because she wanted me to understand that tragedies do happen to teens. So often, teens don't think something bad could happen to them. This thinking prevents young drivers from making good decisions when driving.

When getting my license, I personally made a promise to my parents and myself to not drive distracted. One way this was guaranteed in our family was by getting Life 360 on our phones. This app that my family uses will show all family members if you have been speeding, made any hard stops, handled your phone while driving, or rapidly accelerated at any point.. This app is a way that I am held accountable for my driving. My parents are also on the app and they too have to answer to any alerts that come while driving. My mom and dad have both admitted that the app has made them more conscientious of their driving and to avoid driving distracted.

I realize not all teens may want an app like Life 360 on their phone to help keep them from driving distracted. Therefore, I feel that there must be something that can encourage new drivers to download an app like Life 360. Offering incentives for people to use the app could be a big motivation.. As drivers, we are always in need of gas. One incentive could be to earn points toward fuel. Some companies do this type of thing to get more business. When drivers earn positive reports on the app, this could help them earn points to reduce the cost of gas. Something else that people could earn for having good driving statistics is a discount on a selection of businesses. People could choose from a list of stores and end up getting a free coffee, shake, or fries. Different options could bring more drivers to use the app and as a result become a safer driver.

Another way awareness can be delivered to young drivers is to have speakers, guests, or peers give talks at high schools. People that have been involved in deadly or near-deadly accidents should come to a high school and talk about their tragedy, what they learned from it, and why it is so important to not drive distracted. When teens listen to someone that has experienced something first-hand, it makes a big impact on them. I know that when my mom first told me about her car accident she had when she was 16 years old, it had an influence on how I drove and continue to drive.

The third way new drivers could be encouraged to drive safely is by taking a class. If schools required a safe driving class in addition to the standard driver's education class that is currently taken by high school students, this could help reduce distracted driving. In these classes, law enforcement could come and talk about the importance of staying off the phone while driving, videos could be shown about accidents that have happened to young drivers, and class discussions among our peers could help urge safe driving.

My hope is that distracted driving becomes more of a rare occurrence than a common one as it is today. I know that education is the key and when people understand the importance of staying off their phone or fidgeting with the controls, the percentage of distracted drivers will decrease.

Kaden Gard

Kaden Gard

Indiana State University

Kaden's Essay

Distracted driving kills approximately 3000 United States citizens a year. It is a very prominent issue in today's society with cell phone usage being so drastically high. It's becoming so hard for people to look away, even while they'ŕe at the wheel. The average American citizen will spend five to six hours a day on their cell phone. That is roughly a fourth of their day spent staring at a screen. Now just imagine how much of that time is behind a steering wheel. Your cellphone has been designed and engineered to steal all of your attention. Distracted driving puts not just yourself at risk, but anyone with whom you are sharing the road. Most people look at distracted driving as a minor issue or an issue that will never affect them, but it alone accounted for 3,142 deaths in 2019. Just looking down at your phone for a second could drastically change your life forever or even end it.

We had a student pass away in a fatal accident a few years ago due to a distracted driving accident. It was an issue that at the time I was never very concerned about, but once you see it happen close to home it makes you think about it more seriously. She was going to be the first one in her family to attend college, she was going on an athletic scholarship, and it all disappeared in an instant. It is hard to comprehend how many communities have had this same tragedy of losing someone they knew and loved and having them gone in an instant due to such an easily preventable issue. Countless families lose loved ones every single day to distracted driving when all they had to do was set down their phone until they arrived at their destination . Now their destination is a hospital, or even worse, a cemetery. Sometimes being in a hurry to respond to that text message or answer that phone call can lead to it being your last one ever.

There are multiple apps on your phone that are designed to steal away your attention with eye popping notifications and ear stimulating sounds. Most of these apps are targeted for teenagers and can easily take young drivers' eyes off of the road. App usage doesn't just affect teenagers, it affects all drivers much more than it should. Companies such as Snapchat and Tik Tok send out specific sounds to alert you to a new message or a new post. These sounds and alerts are designed to peak your interest and get you back on to your cell phone. These companies are willing to go to great lengths to get you back on your phone, but they do not take into account the distractions they can cause to all drivers. Even activities that seem harmless such as using your phone as a navigation system or listening to your music while driving can be potentially distracting. Flipping through your playlist or even quickly rerouting your gps are still distractions, even though they are slight, that could be harmful.

Distracted driving needs to be a focal point in education for young and inexperienced drivers. I believe that we should have a stronger emphasis on the possible outcomes when your eyes are on your phone and not the road. There should be a stronger enforcement of the laws restricting distracted driving, and the penalty should be greater since you are not only putting yourself at risk when you are focused on your cell phone, but also everyone else on the road space with you. With all of the technological advancements in society today, I believe we should focus on finding a way to prevent phone usage by the driver of any vehicle. There is no reason we shouldn't be able to have technology in cars to disable phones while it's user is in the driver's seat. Parents should set an example for their children by never using or even looking at a phone while driving because children learn at a young age from the examples set by those around them. Although it is important for the driver themselves to stop using their phones, the passengers of the vehicle should also make sure that the driver stays focused on the road.

Distracted driving is often brushed off as a minor issue, and an issue that anyone can stop whenever they want to. The truth of the matter is, however, that your phone has been designed by people who want nothing more than to steal your attention. Many drivers have to fight the urge to be on their phones while driving and must choose to put their safety and the safety of all other drivers before their desire to be on their phones. The truth of the matter is most of the time people do not realize the true dangers of distracted driving until it affects their lives or the lives of those around them. It is our job as a nation to spread awareness to the real dangers of distracted driving. Many drivers are blind and unaware of how dangerous it can be to be on a cell phone. We need to change our habits as drivers as to avoid potentially dangerous situations that are caused by phone usage while driving. People will commonly use the excuse that texting just takes a few seconds, and it can't be that dangerous. What they do not realize, however, is that those few seconds could be very critical while driving. All it takes is a few seconds of distraction when behind the wheel for dangers to arise. Distracted driving is such an easily avoidable issue, but we struggle so much to put down our phones. We all have to work together to keep our eyes off of our phones and keep our focus on the road. Doing so is an easy way to make our roads safer, protect lives, and teach our children what responsible phone usage looks like.

Karim Massarani

Karim Massarani

Illinois State University

Karim's Essay

Distracted driving has negatively impacted my life on several occasions and it harmfully affects the lives of many others every single day. Having lived in Saudi Arabia for a good portion of my life, I have witnessed just how detrimental distracted driving can be. In Saudi Arabia, the sight of a deadly car accident is unfortunately very common and accepted as part of everyday life, and a lot of these car accidents occur due to distracted driving. A combination of bad driving habits in addition to the lackluster enforcement of driving laws by Saudi Arabian authorities culminates in Saudi Arabia being one of the most dangerous countries to drive in. While living in Saudi Arabia, one of my close friends was seriously harmed by a distracted driver in an extremely dangerous car accident that left him requiring multiple surgeries. My father was also involved in a car accident where the police later found out that the other car's driver was guilty of texting and driving. Unfortunately, I am not the only person who has been affected by distracted driving. According to the CDC, 8 people lose their lives every day here in the US due to distracted driving. Furthermore, aside from those who are older than seventy, teenagers and young adults are more likely to be involved in distracted driving incidents than people in all other age groups (Center for Disease Control). Since this issue hits very close to home not only for me personally but also for other people my age, it has always been an important goal of mine to encourage young people to drive safely through my future career in the insurance industry.

Insurance companies can do a lot of good for society in many different ways. Not only can insurance companies help individuals and businesses manage risks, but they can also encourage loss prevention and loss reduction behaviors that can help mitigate risks and the negative consequences that these risks can have. If I get the chance to do so in my career, I would like to make auto insurance policies more equitably priced for young people based on their driving behaviors through more comprehensive and objective underwriting or even through the use of telematics as a lot of auto insurers are doing today. Unfortunately, younger drivers are often required to pay higher premiums by auto insurers solely because of their age ( I believe that this is very unfair. If a young driver abides by all traffic laws and consistently follows safe driving behaviors, then that driver deserves to pay cheaper auto insurance premiums. By increasing the accuracy and fairness of the pricing of auto insurance policies for younger drivers, I would hopefully be encouraging our young customers to drive safer as safe driving would result in them being able to save money on auto insurance. In addition, because of my future position in the insurance industry and through the help of telematics, I would also like to allow all people, including young people, to obtain quick and comprehensive feedback on how they can improve their driving habits with the aim of making our streets safer for everyone. Many younger customers would want to become safer drivers not only because that would allow them to save on auto insurance premiums, but also because it would hopefully reduce their chances of being involved in dangerous car accidents. Insurance companies have a lot of power to influence and incentivize certain behaviors through their means of pricing auto insurance, and I would like to use that power in my future career to promote safer driving habits among young people.

Another way that I plan to address the societal need of having young people drive safely is through public relations. As an employee of an insurance company, I can encourage my company to positively contribute to safe driving campaigns or even hold events that are centered around the premise of safe driving for teenagers and people in their twenties. In addition, I can try to have my company provide its younger customers with courses and booklets that explain how they can drive in a safer manner and thus reduce their chances of being in car accidents. Also, since advertisements for insurance companies have an incredible reach especially among younger demographics, insurance companies can use their advertisements to encourage young people to drive safely and avoid dangerous habits such as drunk driving and distracted driving. Just to illustrate, while watching basketball or soccer, I almost always view insurance advertisements from companies like State Farm, Geico, and Progressive and I am certain that many others my age do too. Therefore, in my future career, I plan to help insurance companies develop advertising that not only promotes the company itself but also showcases the dangers that bad driving habits can have on society as a whole. Donating money to charities that advocate for safe driving is yet another method that insurance companies can use to encourage younger people to drive safely.

Deadly car accidents caused by distracted driving impact our society in a lot of negative ways that most of us don't think about. In addition to all of the injuries and deaths that occur due to these types of car accidents, our society suffers from the damage that our automobiles experience, liability costs arising out of lawsuits, government money spent on safe driving campaigns, and emotional grief and sadness associated with the families and loved ones of the people involved in such accidents. Insurance companies have a lot of means through which they can incentivize and promote safe driving behaviors. By encouraging safer driving among younger people especially, insurance companies would not only be benefiting themselves in that they would be decreasing the number and magnitude of the claims that they get, but they would also be benefiting society as a whole. Thus, I believe that it is my duty as a future insurance professional to raise awareness about the dangers of distracted driving and to try to stop young drivers from participating in this hazardous and potentially deadly behavior.

“Distracted Driving.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2 Mar. 2021,

“Why Teens Pay More for Car Insurance.”,,

Karsyn Treseler

Karsyn Treseler

Illinois State University

Karsyn's Essay

Distractions are everywhere. When driving, any distraction could be fatal. The simple action of reaching over to change the radio station, reaching behind you to comfort a crying child, anything that takes your eyes off the road while driving is a distraction. Even more in today's time the need to stay connected to the outside world is one of the leading causes for car accidents. Staying safe on the road is hard enough without being distracted by a text message, phone call, or an Instagram notification. Being one of the leading causes for automobile crashes in recent years, distracted driving needs to be stopped.

Many people every year lose their parents, children, siblings, and friends to distracted driving. Many also come out of distracted driving alive with the lasting trauma resulting from it. In August 2020 I was one of these victims. It all started when a friend and I decided we wanted to go for a drive to unwind from a long day. I told her I wanted to drive knowing that I was going to be responsible and keep my eyes on the road at all times, but she said she would drive, I thought about what my friend was like, I knew she was somewhat responsible and I knew she would not do anything to intentionally hurt me, so I let her drive. This drive started off as any fun drive would, Listening to music, singing, dancing, and ranting about drama that happened at school. We had been going on for a while when my friend decided she needed to pick up her phone and check her Snapchat. Instantly I knew that something was going to go wrong, and you guessed it, it did. In the passenger seat I am watching everything unfold, next thing I know we are straddling the centerline when I say, “get in your lane, we are going to get hit”, freaking out my friend jerks her wheel to the right sending the car spinning out of control, we cross the center line somehow missing all oncoming traffic. Everything went black for me after that and next thing I know we are in a ditch on the opposite side of the road. At this point I was white as a ghost and struggling to breathe out of shock. After checking up on me my friend got out of the car to assess the damage and see if we needed to call someone. The only damage that she saw was a dent on the driver side front bumper, so she got back on the road and we stopped in a nearby parking lot. I proceeded to get out of the car and throw up out of complete shock and fear, as I had just stared death right in the face. The trauma from this accident will stick with me forever.

Since this accident has happened, I have removed this friend from my life and when others offer to drive, I hesitate. I only drive with those whom I know will not have even the temptation to get on their phones. When people ask me why I hesitate to let others drive, I tell them this story, hoping to make an impression on them. As teenagers we all think we are invincible and have the mentality of “it won't happen to us” but it can and if you are not careful, it will.

The one accident I have been in taught and traumatized me enough to where I want to make a change and spread awareness to this ongoing issue. My school every couple of years has a demonstration of a car accident which always leaves many in tears, thinking about all of the unsafe things that they have done while driving that put their lives at risk. I think that something like this needs to be done every year and all over the country. This is a very moving example of what can happen in an instant when distracted behind the wheel.

Another way to bring awareness to this issue would be required classes or seminars where real people who have lost a loved one to distracted driving or someone like me who has been involved in a distracted driving accident comes to speak and tell their story. This could show people what has happened to others and that it could possibly happen to them if they drive distracted or if someone else on the road is driving while distracted. One topic to bring up during these seminars that would be eye opening to many would be the real numbers of how many people have been involved and died from distracted driving. So many people, not just teenagers, are unaware of the real statistics. These seminars could spread awareness to the topic because most people, especially teenagers, don't think anything bad will happen to them, until it does.

All of these accidents take place in automobiles, whether that be a bus, van, car, or truck, all of these accidents happen when someone is in a vehicle. There is enough technology in today's world that there are eye trackers and lane trackers in the newest models of cars. When these features become a more widely known thing, I think all cars should be equipped with it for no extra cost. When these features become available at the base model of a car, it will ultimately save so many people loads of money. This will save money on hospital expenses and it will reduce the amount of cars that are bought because of crashes. Hopefully in the future these will become safety features that are required in all cars, much like seatbelts. Now, like seat belts, this kind of technology in cars will not save everyone from getting in a distracted driving accident, but I will reduce the likelihood by tenfold. This will also help people who have been in car accidents ease their nerves knowing that there is technology trying to keep them safe.

Driving is an activity that requires a person's full attention. Anything that takes a person's eyes off the road is distracting and dangerous. After being in a car accident myself I have solutions and ideas that may help future generations of drivers stay focused and safe while driving. School demonstrations, seminars, classes, and widely distributed technology are some of the ways that I think would lessen the amount of accidents and the amount of people lost from distracted driving.

Makenna Woods

Makenna Woods

Southeast Missouri State University

Makenna's Essay

Distracted driving has impacted a lot of drivers ever since mobile phones were introduced into society. When I'm in the car with someone as a passenger, I have witnessed them become distracted by their phone. They receive a text, so they must read it. They receive a notification, so they must see what it is. They do not like the current song that's playing from their phone or their radio, so they must change it. I have witnessed them become so distracted that they swerve, or they get so close to the tail end of a car that they almost hit it. Sometimes, they even almost hit a deer if it's in a deer crossing area.

Distracted driving does not just come from the forms of phones, however. It comes from different things within the car. I have my own car, and a lot of the things you need to change are on the wheel. Temperature, volume, and so forth. However, I still must use the main console from time to time, and that can distract me from the road and whoever else is on it. Sometimes I have swerved when trying to change the fan strength blowing on me, and sometimes I have gotten distracted by changing a song so much that I almost missed seeing an acquaintance hit a coyote. And once, whilst I was driving some friends home from an event, I almost ran a red light because I wasn't paying attention, and almost hit a man driving through the intersection. Distractions happen to anyone; it doesn't just happen to younger drivers.

Anyone can change how much they get distracted. There is a lot of distractions in your car, especially if you are with others, but you can eliminate some of those distractions. For instance, I keep my phone away from me while I drive and leave it on silent, so I do not get distracted by a notification. Usually, to keep myself focused, I simply turn on a playlist and let whatever songs come through play.

Like I said before, though, distracted driving isn't just phone distractions, it comes in so many other forms. For instance, rubbernecking when you see an accident on the side of the road is a distraction. Distraction can come from a person sitting beside you and talking, or having an entire car of people talking over one another and telling so many different stories. Avoiding getting distracted seems almost impossible, but it really is not. Forcing yourself to focus and not let yourself get distracted comes from strong self control. That is what we, as a human race, lack. We need to force ourselves to focus on the road and road signs and street lights. Otherwise, we risk an accident with another vehicle, and perhaps even death of ourself or another party.

Self control comes from within. We can't have someone tell us to focus and we immediately focus, we have to make ourselves focus. We have to make ourselves put our phones down and ignore the newest notification from Twitter. There is not much you can invent that makes a person's self control stronger, it is up to the individual to control themselves better.

Distractions come from allowing yourself to be distracted. Humans often lack self-control, and look over at that crash, and look at that notification on their phone. People will often say “It's not my fault I got distracted!” But I would like to argue that it is. You do not have to look at that crash, you do not have to look at your phone, you do not have to mess with the volume on your console.

My best advice is working on focusing on your person during your daily life. Focus on certain tasks, which will later help you focus on the road later down the line when driving. Nothing is automatic, it takes time to teach yourself to not get distracted. Occasionally, that self control will falter, and you'll go to focusing on the temperature on your console, but you can force yourself to focus, and you can focus if you choose to believe you can.

Sometimes it helps to have someone else in the car to help you focus. For instance, if someone starts reaching for their phone, you can tell them to focus on the road instead. You can have the other person change the temperature and volume on the console, if those applications aren't already on the steering wheel. You can also have the other person tell you to focus on the road when you come across something particularly distracting, like a person walking a very fluffy dog. Of course, they can't force you to focus, however they can help to remind you where you are and what you need to do.

However, sometimes that presence can be distracting, and can be anxiety inducing. I become quite anxious when driving my parents places, because I know they are watching my every move and making sure I do not mess up and make a mistake. That anxiety is a distraction, and makes me focus on my feelings, my breathing, and control of my own body and emotions. This was very common when I was a new driver and learning how to drive, and would sometimes just sit in silence for minutes at a time just so I could focus on driving. Young drivers have a harder time focusing and are often reckless. This is typical of teenagers however, and usually they grow out of it, however they have to learn at a young age that they need to have self-control and responsibility over themselves and whoever else is in their car.

Eliminating distractions does not just come from eliminating devices or inventing something to remove distractions, it comes from within. It comes from within yourself, and how much self control you chose to have. You can help yourself with self control by having somebody else in the car to help you remind you to focus, or you can work on yourself, and your self control.

Sania Zehra Khaja

Sania Zehra Khaja

University of Illinois Chicago

Sania's Essay

“Ughhhh. I hate this song”. You casually reach over to the dashboard, looking for a different radio station. At that time, you lost focus of where you were going and all you are thinking about is the music. One hand is off the wheel, while the other hand is occupied with changing the channels. Your eyes glance down at the buttons and screen. At that moment someone in front of you suddenly braked, but you were still looking down at the station. When you look up, you see the blaring red brake lights and frantically grab the steering wheel with both hands and jam the brakes. Your mind had been so occupied with the music that it took you longer than usual to react. You did not have your other hand to be able to quickly maneuver the car or enough time to brake and not hit the car in front of you. You were too late. You rammed right into the other car with a big “BANG”.

This is one example of distracted driving out of many. Changing music, eating, texting, calling, drinking, deep thinking and so much more are all distracted driving. The scenario above is one possible scenario out of millions that could occur. Not only would you have been injured, but so would the person in front. There are many possible consequences of you not paying attention while driving. The worst case scenario is usually death. Sometimes there are severe injuries that last life long.

I have seen distracted driving many times. While I never had to experience or witness anything bad happening due to the distraction, I have seen instances where it was a close call and the consequences could have been severe. For example, I have seen people try to brake at the last moment due to not paying attention. I have seen people miss when someone gave their indicator to turn. Sometimes people would not move when the signal turned green due to them being too into looking at their phones instead of their surroundings. Sometimes the distracted driver starts going out of their lane. The worst I faced was the sudden tightening of my seatbelt or having to wait a little for the person to start driving. I know the consequences of distracted driving can be far worse though.

The first step of preventing distracted driving is to raise awareness on the issue. Schools and driving institutes need to provide information on distracted driving to young drivers. They can do this through social media, but also in person. They can do this in many ways. The first way is through statistics. These statistics should be relayed cleverly in a way that it feels less like numbers. They need to present these statistics in a way that will create an emotional connection. Sometimes this can be achieved by showing a physical representation of the number such as through dots.

Graphics can be used to help illustrate the point. Think about times you have heard statistics. “A million people died in the past year due to people distracted driving”. That sounds terrible. You know it is bad, but it still is a number in your head. You would have to further think about how devastated the survivors are from the deaths of their family. What if instead you saw an interview that relayed a story of a survivor of a distracted driving related car crash? What if you saw all the consequences instead of just hearing it? People tend to understand emotion. If we can feel emotionally connected, we can better understand a situation. Due to this, the statistics need to be relayed in a more personal way with graphics.

Another way to increase awareness in an effective way is through personal accounts, interviews and videos. These all will feel more personal and can better create an emotional connection that will make students remember the dangers of distracted driving. If a person can do a presentation in person and students can ask questions to that person, that's even better since this would create more of a connection. All this can also be done through different social media platforms and even online.

Students can have a mini project based on distracted driving. This could be a mini research project or a project based on real life accounts of the consequences of distracted driving. Another project schools or driving institutes could do is to make the young drivers identify one common distracted driving habit that they see or do and then inform those around them about ways to avoid the distraction. This allows the young drivers to be able to solve problems and can help to prevent them from doing the distracted driving practice they had to talk about. Young people need to understand the consequences their actions can have. They need to understand that just because nothing bad has happened does not mean that they will not be affected by distracted driving. They need to think if they or their loved ones would want to be a victim of the consequences of distracted driving. Once they realize how bad distracted driving is, they will need to be able to apply their knowledge.

Once students know the dangers of distracted driving, they need an action plan. They need to know ways to prevent themselves from getting distracted while driving. These tactics need to be relayed multiple times and people need to consciously try to apply these tactics. Phones usually cause the most distraction. One way to combat that distraction is to put your phone on silent so you do not get distracted by a sound notification. You also can adjust your settings to turn off notifications that will make your screen light up. You can also keep your phone in a bag or turned away so you do not want to look at the screen. Sometimes cars have navigation so a person should try to use that instead of their phone. If they need to use navigation, they should try to preview the directions and have an idea of where they are going in order to not be as distracted while driving.

Another common distraction is eating and drinking while driving. The easiest way to combat this is to eat before or after driving. People need to make sure they manage their time so that they will have enough time to eat. They also can have someone else drive while they eat. Another distraction is music. People can decide to not listen to music at all. They can try to stick to one radio station in order for them to not be distracted about what song or station to change to.

Thinking deep thoughts or even talking to someone else can be a distraction. Young drivers need to be able to tell what distracts them. Someone can sit in the car and point out what seems to be distracting the driver. The young driver can try to consciously pay attention to what distracts them. Once they know what distracts them, they then can try different ways to not be distracted while driving. Some of the suggestions above can be used to help avoid certain distractions and these suggestions should be relayed through schools, driving institutes, peers, social media, news and more to help drive the point through. Once young drivers know ways to prevent getting distracted while driving, they will be able to apply the knowledge. If parents or peers are present while the young driver is driving, they can try to point out some of the tips in order to help out.

Young drivers need to be educated about the dangers of distracted driving whether that be through videos, infographics, speeches, personal accounts, projects or anything else. These drivers then need to consciously realize their driving habits and then apply tips to help them not get distracted while driving.

Lindsay Douglass

Lindsay Douglass

Miami University

Lindsay's Essay

A few years ago, I read a statistic which reported that when a driver sneezes while behind the wheel, they are likely to travel around 50 feet with their eyes completely closed. Ever since reading this, I can always feel a little part of me panicking any time I feel a sneeze coming on while in the driver's seat because the idea of driving anywhere from 30 to 70 mph in a vehicle with my eyes closed makes my blood run cold. Although my fear of sneezing while driving may seem silly, I know that drivers everywhere find themselves with their eyes off of the road for periods of time longer than it takes to sneeze due to various distractions while driving. Sadly, throughout the years, I've seen how this type of distracted driving has impacted both my community and our society as a whole. Therefore, I am motivated to raise awareness about this issue and share prevention strategies so that no more tragedies occur at the hands of distracted driving.

Twelve years ago, my family got a call that there had been a car accident involving one of my parents' friends. I remember my mother crying uncontrollably in the other room as the news set in that her friend's life had been taken at the young age of 36 and that her husband and three children would no longer have their wife and their mother with them. Eventually, it was shared that she had died after a distracted driver lost control of the wheel and crossed a median into our friend's lane. Since I was young at the time, some of the details elude me surrounding the events. However, I will never forget the feeling of loss and grief at the funeral I attended with my family to mourn the loss of our family friend. At that moment, I felt angry. I blamed the woman who had killed my parents' friend. But now, as I look back, the events are more complicated to me. I now understand that distracted driving isn't the product of malicious intent or even explicit recklessness. Rather, it is something that happens every day without second thought. Sadly, anyone who checks their phone while driving could find themselves in the same position as the woman who hit our friend's car.

Nowadays, I think our society runs at a speed that makes it impossible to focus on one thing without feeling as if you are falling behind. Consequently, driving a regular route becomes a perfect opportunity to whip out a cellphone and look through recent notifications just to save time later. Furthermore, because of the increasing technology being implemented into automobiles, many drivers may feel as if the act of driving does not require the same amount of attention or effort as before. Therefore, activities such as checking emails, responding to texts, and changing the music take precedence over keeping one's eyes on the road. I am ashamed to say that I have fallen victim to this mindset at times because I feel as if I am wasting time if I do not use red lights to perform other tasks. In fact, the modern world tells us that multitasking is a mark of efficiency and productivity. However, multitasking and driving do not mix well.

I think it is a shame that we feel as if we cannot slow down and pay attention to one endeavor at a time. People die at the hands of distracted driving at an alarming rate, yet drivers everywhere continue to take their eyes off of the road to do a number of things. I believe social media and advanced technology has led to a constant need for stimulation and distraction, and this need has surpassed our fear of causing accidents while driving. Although I know that I myself have not always been a saint when it comes to ignoring distractions behind the wheel, I would like to make a commitment for the future that I will not continue to let this need to multitask influence me personally. I miss living in the moment and being able to enjoy the activity I am participating in without feeling as if I must be doing something else simultaneously in order to be productive or entertained. Therefore, my first step in raising awareness and promoting strategies begins with a personal pledge to not drive while distracted. In my opinion, social influence is one of the strongest tools when it comes to bringing about community change. If friends, family, and fellow community members see how one person is acting differently, and if this person encourages those they encounter to act the same, I believe their influence can create a ripple effect. Oftentimes, people brush off advice given to them in a generalized and impersonal manner. However, if I can engage people that I have a relationship with and share with them the personal pledge I have taken, I believe that my encouragement will actually impact them and possibly influence their behavior.

Although I had previously mentioned how the advancement of technology and social media may contribute to an increase in distracted driving, I also believe that they can serve as tools for prevention of such behavior. For example, I have personally chosen to implement certain security preferences that prevent me from being able to do things on my phone while driving. For example, I cannot do things such as browse Spotify, access Snapchat, or receive calls. These settings are available for anyone who has a smartphone, but I am not sure if many people are aware of their existence. Therefore, I would like to take advantage of the existing tools that have already been developed and promote their utilization. There are even some products that can be purchased that I love to use that I would like to recommend to others. One of these products includes a car mount that allows people to attach their phone to the front windshield so that it is out of reach but within eyesight. With this product, drivers can utilize applications such as GPS while keeping their eyes straight ahead. I find these gadgets extremely useful, and I will continue to promote their use in an effort to reduce the temptation many people face while driving.

Overall, I believe that distracted driving can be addressed through individuals sharing their stories and doing their best to influence others that they know to change their behaviors. Personally, I will commit to sharing my own experiences and point of views regarding the subject and promoting the utilization of existing tools that aid in decreasing distraction. Afterall, my motivation to do so comes from a desire to save lives and create safer streets for everyone.

Jenna Bowman

Jenna Bowman

Graham Hospital School of Nursing

Jenna's Essay

Distracted driving is a very serious issue in the current times. When talking about distracted driving, the first thing that comes to mind is texting and driving, however, there are numerous scenarios that could cause a driver to become distracted. Texting or talking on the phone, eating, and finding a good song on the radio are just some other forms of distracted driving, but anything that causes the driver to focus on something other than the road, could be considered a distraction. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the lives of 3,142 people were taken because of distracted driving in the year 2019. This source also reveals that texting or doing anything that is a distraction for just a short 5 seconds while traveling at a speed of 55 miles per hour, is equivalent to going the distance of a football field. These few short seconds that it takes to send a text message to a friend or family member could be the last text they ever get from you. This life changing text could not only be the last for your loved ones, but also the ones that happened to be on the road when you were distracted.

Everyone who drives or is a passenger in a vehicle have been affected in some way by distracted driving. Fortunately, I have not been directly affected by the consequences of distracted driving, but my small community was all taken back when there was a teenage girl who was killed in a single-car accident because of texting and driving. She was not wearing a seatbelt and was ejected from the car. Another unfortunate tragedy struck the community last year when a woman who was highly under the influence of drugs and alcohol and driving at a high rate of speed hit and killed a grandmother and her three grandsons. This woman was distracted by drugs and alcohol and took four lives because of it. While on a recent vacation to the state of Colorado, there were many times when the scenery was breathtaking, and everyone wanted to look at the mountains or wildlife. It was easy for the driver to become distracted and want to look at the mountains or the wildlife, such as the moose or elk that we do not see on a regular basis.

All drivers are guilty of distracted driving in some way or another, whether it be reaching down for your next french fry or attempting to keep your hyper dog calm while you are trying to drive. People may not realize how much damage could be caused by doing what seems to be a simple task while driving until the damage has already be done, which is why education is very important. I feel that the best way to limit distracted driving is by providing education to school-age children. This potentially lifesaving education should begin at a young age and should continue throughout a child's life, with a huge emphasis prior to the driving age. The information should be provided at an age-appropriate level to ensure that the children will be able to comprehend what is being taught to them. Activities could be incorporated as well. At the Illinois State Fair, there is a tent that is set up to bring awareness to drunk driving, which is also distracted driving. The activity they have is to put on goggles that simulate what it is like to drive while being intoxicated and then to attempt to ride a bike in a straight line while also avoiding hitting the orange cones. Using an activity with a concept similar to this would put distracted driving into perspective and could give people a reality check. An activity that could be created for distracted driving would be to ride a bicycle or a stationary car while attempting to do multiple things that were a distraction. A simulation car could be set up similar to a video game, where the “player” has to properly and safely drive a car while distracted. The video game could include a real-life situation while on the road with other cars. Another tent at the Illinois State Fair had an actual car that had been crashed as a result of texting while driving. The purpose of showing the car and sharing the story of the driver, who unfortunately died due to the crash, was to make people realize the dangers of distracted driving. Distracted driving should be promoted like seat belts have been. The education that has been provided about the importance of wearing a seat belt should be modeled for distracted driving. When educating about seat belts, distracted driving should also be included. Seat belts have been proven to save lives, and not being distracted while driving can save lives as well.

A slogan for a campaign about distracted driving could be, “Pump the Brakes on Distracted Driving,” or “Distracted Driving Doesn't Discriminate.” These slogans could be used for a campaign to warn and educate others about distracted driving. The focus of “Pump the Brakes on Distracted Driving” is to put an end to distracted driving. Drivers should be encouraged to “pump the brakes” and pull over if they really need to send a text message or have an important call they need to make or take. The other slogan, “Distracted Driving Doesn't Discriminate” is focused on letting people know that the consequences from distracted driving can happen to anybody and everyone needs to be educated and take their part to ensure they are being safe while on the road.

There have been many strides in technology over the years to keep drivers safer while on the roads. Buttons to change the radio station have been added to steering wheels to keep drivers from looking directly into the dash. Many vehicles are equipped with certain features that alert the driver if they cross the center line. On interstates, rumble strips have been put on the side of the road to jostle the driver if they begin to veer off.

While the act of distracted driving is not intended to hurt anyone, it can be life altering or even be fatal. This is why it is so important to provide education to present and future drivers. Do not be another number of a life that was taken too soon because of distracted driving.

Margarita Sanchez

Margarita Sanchez

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Margarita's Essay

The National Safety Council (NSC) estimates that cell phones were being used during 25% of car crashes in the U.S. I remember being at school participating in the honor roll ceremony, talking with my friends about how time is quickly going by. That same day something very unfortunate happened. As I was speaking with my friends at the ceremony, I started seeing this group of guys whisper between one another. I thought that the whispering was the usual conversation about school drama and gossip. But I saw that one of the boys in the group, who was my friend, started to fill his face with distress. I knew something was happening because his emotions translated to everyone in the group. As the ceremony came to an end, I went back to my locker and my stomach felt uneasy as if I had a hole engulfing my stomach. I vividly remember the day the news broke out; it was on that same day of my honor roll ceremony that I found out my friend had died. My body started to deliver hot waves that rushed all the way to my head, I was left speechless. I did not know the reason why his life came to an end, so I asked my friend who was in the group. He mentioned that it dealt with distracted driving, but the specific reason was not stated. After a close deliberation of his incident, the cause of death was stated as “texting and driving”. My friend, who unfortunately passed away, was always the light of the room, made jokes whether he was your friend or not, made you feel included and never as an outcast. His life was taken away because of something that could have been prevented. My friend probably thought that his texting and driving would never bring him on the verge of death, but it did. The scary part of texting and driving and all other forms of distracted driving is that it does not care about your economic status, the life you have lived, and age. Distracted driving took my friend's life, it took his life in an instant, and the most heart aching thing is that I will never be able to see him again.

My friend fell under the manual distraction category, he physically took his hands off the steering wheel to make a text and cause a distraction to his driving. There is a myriad of other distractions that fall under two other categories, cognitive and visual. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) driving a vehicle while texting is six times more dangerous than driving while intoxicated. Distracted driving has not only affected my life, but it has also affected many other families and that is why it is so important to bring more awareness to this issue. I am a young adult and catch myself doing small things such as eating while driving when I am running late to school, but things like these interfere with my focus on the road. With the recent surge of technological advancements, we have relied on devices that follow us everywhere and more specifically, on the road. The National Safety Council (NSC) estimates that cell phones were being used during 25% of car crashes in the U.S. This statistic is important because it reveals that collaboration between our technological devices and car manufacturers needs to occur. We know that a lot of states have enacted distracted driving laws, but this can only go so far, we need a better plan that actively eliminates the urge to reach for our cellphones or any other electronic devices. By blending these two aspects, we can create cars that work with cellphones that would not allow for any driver to access a cellphone unless it is an emergency. This idea would take some time, but it is a step in the right direction because by simply implementing laws that ban electronic devices, people will still have no physical barrier hindering them and will reach out to use them. Distracting driving can end your life, but it can also take others, which is scary. Focusing on the educational level, organizations that are working to end distracted driving should implement and host events that bring in families of victims. Including the emotional perspective can greatly be enough change for people who do not know the seriousness of distracted driving. Since we know that most car crashes due to distracted driving involve young teens and adults, informational sessions about how to be a more “defensive driver” should be held at least once a month. If schools do not want these sessions, they should seek to include a course about defensive driving in their driver's education curriculum. Making these courses part of the driver's educational curriculum could heavily reduce distracted driving among our youth because they could sharpen their driving skills and help them avoid distractions.

Texting and calling people is not the only source of distracted driving, so that means that creating an awareness campaign against distracted driving that includes all sorts of distractions is vital. We know that influencers play a huge role in our youth population, so why not use this to our advantage? Online influencers should collaborate with organizations that are trying to combat distracted driving to mainstream awareness into the online sector. Using influencers can shift the perspective that careful driving is not only to not text and drive but also eliminating all sorts of distractions that reduce the focus on the road. Mainstreaming awareness on distracted driving into movies could also help, we are indirectly conditioning people to engage in better driving without them knowing that they are being conditioned into a specific behavior.

Distracted driving is becoming a bigger threat and solutions need to happen quickly. The NHTSA estimated in 2012 that distraction was a factor in about 10 percent of all fatal motor vehicle crashes and 18 percent of all crashes causing injury. These accidents are attributed to a variety of causes, but we must keep finding innovative solutions that will be beneficial for us in the long run. We all know someone who has partaken in distracted driving, we all know someone who has been a victim because of others' distracted driving, but we all know that solutions must be created and implemented soon to stop another person's life from ending.

Agam Gupta

Agam Gupta

University of California, Berkeley

Agam's Essay

Jack had dreams to pursue, places to explore, vacations to take, and adventures to experience. He aspired to become a sports medicine physician, wanted to travel the world, and actively sought to hike the tallest peaks, skydive from thousands of feet, and paraglide across big valleys. But, in a mere fraction of a second, his life and aspirations were destroyed. He was texting on his phone while driving when he accidentally ran a red light and got rammed perpendicularly by a pickup truck. This catastrophic collision left him paralysed from the waist down, crushing his future ambitions. Along with that, the disastrous accident devastated the lives of his loved ones. A cloud of grief and a period of mourning set over his family and friends.

Jack was one of my closest friends and his unfortunate accident always flashes my mind when I set out to drive. But even after being informed of the tragic incident, I still get sudden impulsive urges to check my phone for new text messages, calls, or social media notifications. These impulsive urges divert my attention from the roads, making me vulnerable to potential disastrous mishaps that can lead to catastrophic tragedies. Unfortunately, Jack and I are not the only people whose lives have been drastically suffered from distracted driving. The problem of distracted driving has plagued our modern society and drastically affected the younger population. In a study conducted in 2009, The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration concluded that “5474 people were killed in the United States in accidents involving distracted driving” (Hosanky). Along with this, distracted driving also injured 448,000 people. Out of those 5474 deaths, 16% aged under-20 and 24% aged between 20 and 39. Since 2009, the automobile concentration has increased steeply and thus the fatalities have most probably also increased. There are multitudinal sources of distractions, including but not limited to adjusting the radio, staring at outside scenery, looking at the GPS system, daydreaming, or putting on makeup. But it is the widespread growing use of cellphones and an addictive attachment to social media that has taken a toll on safe driving and contributes to the most distracted driving accidents.

Distracted driving is a fatal problem. It is an immense issue that can detrimentally affect and destroy thousands of lives every year. This bedevils our society and we ought to create awareness on the dangers of this issue. Lack of awareness stems from inadequate education. There should be substantial focus on the ill-effects of distracted driving in Drivers-Education courses that are given to teens and new drivers. It should include the potential distractions inside the car and should be backed up by statistics. It has been widely proven that students retain and reflect on information better if the

instruction is delivered through personal anecdotes or narratives over extensive textbook readings. Thus, the Drivers-Education curriculum should include the recitation of a personal recollection by a person whose life was negatively affected by distracted driving. Furthermore, the government must also partake in the duty of generating awareness. They should put billboards on highways and organize campaigns at the local level to educate the public on the sources and consequences of distracted driving. Prominent civil servants such as governors, senators, and representatives should release public service announcements or fund advertisements on social media platforms that highlight the magnitude of the perils of distracted driving. Additionally, parents of new drivers must dutily inform their children of hazards of using phones while driving. They have to teach their children from the occasional impulsive urges of checking their phones. This can only be done when drivers understand that it is their personal responsibility to be obligated to the safety of their fellow drivers for the greater well-being of our society.

But even with major improvements and advancements in driver education about distracted driving, drivers will still be prone to get distracted. Driving can get repetitive and boring, and it is a human trait to explore new distractions to extinguish boredom. Cellphones and social media readily satiates this as it continuously offers new updates, texts, and gossip. Thus, we ought to create software or technologies to counteract these attention-grabbing social media outlets and phones. We could create an app which continuously detects the speed at which the phone is moving through GPS technology.

When this app detects a speed of over 20 mph, most probably indicating the user is in an automobile, it will block all notifications and calls to prevent distractions. Furthermore, we could also invent a small facial recognition camera device that gets attached in front of the driver. When this device detects that the driver's eyes are not on the road for a specified amount of time(say 2 seconds) while the vehicle is moving, it beeps loudly, thereby reminding the driver to take caution. But no matter how ingenious the technologies are, there is always a source of human error. Therefore, we need to

partially or completely automate automobiles. Wholly automated automobiles, though taking away elements of independence and freedom that are often associated with conventional vehicles, will result in few or no accidents as the vehicles will be commanded by artificial intelligence software whose decision-making and reaction time immensely trumps humans'. This will surely solve the problem of distracted driving as drivers would not be the primary decision makers. Even partially automated automobiles equipped with reactionary technologies will subside the frequency of collisions due to distracted driving. Automobiles equipped with automatic emergency braking (vehicle inbuilt system that brakes automatically if it senses a potential collision or a red light before the driver can react) or lane-keep assist (helps steer vehicles so that they don't move out of lanes without turn signal) will help substantially reduce the likelihood and severity of automobile accidents. Therefore, it is only through extensive educational outreach propelled by government efforts, partaking of personal responsibility, and advancements in technologies that we can eradicate the problem of distracted driving and save the lives and dreams of thousands.

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