The Difference

Luke S

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I was driving my brother home from his Orchestra rehearsal. It had been raining for a little while, and the roads were slick. As I had been told of the dangers of hydroplaning, I made sure to keep my speed slow. I was still a relatively new driver, and I made sure that all distractions were mitigated. I had been on the highway for a few minutes and was about halfway home, when the car in front of me slammed their brakes. As I pushed my brakes in response, I quickly realized that I simply had not enough distance to stop in time. As my car continued towards the now-stationary vehicle in front of me, I braced for a collision – but all I felt was a small bump. Because I had my eyes on the road, and because I kept my focus, what could have been a fatal collision was reduced to a miniscule fender bender – the only damage being my license plate’s plastic frame, and a tiny dent in the front of my car. As I exited my vehicle, I saw the reason why the car in front of me had stopped. Two cars in front of me, a driver missed their exit. Instead of continuing on and getting off at the next exit, the driver decided to slam on the brakes, switch into reverse (on the highway), and drive backwards on the shoulder to their missed exit. They drove away without even stopping to look at the wreck they had caused. However, my attentiveness had saved me from a potentially fatal situation. Not everybody is as wary of the dangers of the road as I am. My best friend was driving with two of his friends in the backseat, going through winding roads at night. He turned his head to let out a comment to his passengers. As luck would have it, the road took a turn at that exact moment and his car continued straight into a tree at more than 40mph. The car was totaled, and his legs were so badly shattered that he couldn’t walk for more than a month. If he had hit the tree at a slightly different angle, he could have been killed instantly. What was the difference? What was the deciding factor that led to my crash being so minor that the other car had no visible damage whatsoever, while his crash was so severe that he literally couldn’t walk away from it? Distraction. He turned his attention away from the road for a split second, and it almost ended his life. There are many ideas for solutions to this issue, but the most prominent issue that I see today is ignorance. People know that their behaviors on the road may be dangerous, but they simply don’t care, or they think they didn’t look away long enough for anything to happen. We see many ads warning us of the dangers of texting and driving, but phone usage is only responsible for 12% of wrecks. Instead of promoting awareness of only no texting while driving to avoid teenage car collisions, we must promote awareness of distracted driving in general, making sure that all teens know that looking away from the road for any amount of time could mean life or death. Only then will we begin to see a decrease in the staggering 4000 fatalities each year.