Dangers of Friendly Distraction
Running out of the house to her parents’ small black car, Leah was accompanied by her friends Brandy, Ella, and Violet. Tonight was their first high school party, and they were so ready. Violet slid into the passenger seat and squealed. Brandy and Ella popped into the backseat, and Leah rolled down the driveway and headed south. “Hey,” Ella said, “let’s get some music pumping in here!” Without asking Leah, Violet flipped on the radio, quickly flicking the volume almost all the way up. Leah was jarred by the sudden noise and almost ran into a mailbox. She hit the radio’s power button. Immediately her friends began to whine. “Guys, my parents don’t want me listening to music while I’m driving with friends. It’s the rule.” Leah tried to explain. Violet pleaded, “C’mon Leah. We’ll keep it quiet. I promise.” Leah sighed, and Violet took that as a yes. She turned the radio back on and lowered the volume about ten decibels. Before Leah could protest, cheers erupted from the backseat. Ella reached up and patted Leah on the shoulder, “See, you are cool.” Soon, Leah got swept up in the music and excitement, almost missing a couple of two way stops. Violet was fixing her lipstick in the mirror but dropped the tube when Leah turned a corner. Ella began kicking the driver’s seat, dancing to the music. At the same time, Brandy rolled down her window, unbuckled, and stuck half her body out of the car, whopping and hollering. Leah turned to tell them to stop, but Violet shrieked that her open lipstick had rolled under Leah’s seat. Leah looked down and had just grabbed the tube when Violet screamed. Leah looked up to see that she was at a stop sign and going forty. She slammed her foot on the break but couldn’t press it down fast enough. In a moment’s blur, she saw a green car ram into Ella’s door. Her car spun out of control and all Leah could hear were screams and then another crash as her car’s front end hit another car. The screen went black. Miss Jamison switched off the projector and flipped on the lights. She turned around, facing her driver’s education class, comprised of twenty-eight shocked fifteen and sixteen-year-olds. “Class,” she began, “the video that you just watched is a reenactment of an actual car crash that occurred six years ago with four sixteen-year-old girls from this high school. The only survivor was Violet, the front seat passenger.” With a grim expression, she surveyed her students’ faces. A handful were smirking or rolling their eyes, but the majority looked like they might be sick. “My full name is Miss Violet Jamison. The real crash killed my three best friends. We shouldn’t have all been in that car together. Leah had only had her license for two months. If you take the time to read our state driver’s manual, you’ll see that all four of us in that car together was illegal. But worse than that, the three of us purposefully distracted Leah, thinking that would mean we would have more fun. So, if you do anything as young drivers, never, ever drive with more than one friend. If you are that one friend, be quiet. If you think about distracting the driver, don’t do it. A moment of distraction and fun can end up ruining the lives around you. Six years cannot make me forget that because I distracted the driver, my three best friends are dead. Obey the law, and don’t be reckless, and don’t be a distraction.”
I wrote this story because I believe the most dangerous distraction to young drivers such as myself is those whom we trust. We like to think our friends would never put us in harm’s way, but when they play loud music, distract us with wild antics, or press for us to do something we shouldn’t do while we are driving, they are putting both the us as the driver and themselves in danger. The solution to this terrifying problem? It is twofold. The first part is to obey the law by not having more than one passenger under nineteen. The second is for the passengers to simply be respectful, for the passengers to place themselves, mentally, in the driver’s seat and think about how they would their passengers to act. It is a simple solution to a deadly issue.