Arriving Alive

Taylor E

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As the opening of her favorite song played over the car’s speakers, Katie squealed loudly from the backseat as she leaned across to the front seat to turn the volume up. “Hey, what are you doing?” Mel, the driver of the car, exclaimed as she swerved sharply. Their friend Eli, who was sitting in the passenger seat, braced himself as Mel regained control of the car. Katie meekly slid back into the backseat as Mel turned off the radio altogether. “Sorry. I just wanted to turn it up.” “Okay, well, I’m driving. I need to be focused.” Mel took her eyes off the car to look at Katie in the back seat. “And you need to be buckled up. You can’t just jump into the front seat all willy-nilly. Are you trying to get yourself killed?” “Ugh, Mel, I get it. You don’t have to be such a buzzkill,” Katie said, rolling her eyes. “She’s not being a buzzkill, Katie, she’s trying to make sure we don’t end up on the nine o’clock news,” Eli said. “Teenagers get in crashes all the time, and that risk increases with the number of teenage passengers in the car.” Quietly, Katie buckled up. “I actually didn’t know that.” Katie was barely fifteen, and she hadn’t gotten her learner’s permit. Mel and Eli were both seventeen, and they’d been driving for a year. Mel looked back at Katie again. “Distracted driving is a huge risk for teens, but there are ways for you to stop it.” “Yeah, you could start by keeping your eyes on the road at all times,” Eli said, glaring at Mel. She resisted the urge to roll her eyes, instead choosing to keep them trained on the road. “He’s right. A lot of distractions come from technology as well, so I usually make sure that my phone is turned off and put away when I drive. Texting and phone use are the causes of 1 in 4 car crashes, so I’d rather just have it put away than take that risk. Personally, I think that everyone should do that, but it’ll probably be a while before that happens.” “Is texting and driving really that bad? I can text while I’m doing plenty of things,” Katie asked. “Your reaction times are slowed down when you text and your reflexes need to be sharp when you’re driving, so yes, it really is that bad,” Eli explained to her. “Katie, can you think of any other ways you can avoid being a distracted driver?” “Do I have to?” Katie groaned. “Can’t we just go home?” “Katie, you’re going to be driving soon. What are you going to do to make sure that you aren’t a distracted driver?” Eli repeated, swiveling around to look at Katie. “I’ll turn my cell phone off,” Katie offered. “Um, I’ll turn off the radio, and I’ll try to keep the number of passengers in my car to a minimum.” “And don’t try to eat in the car or do your makeup,” Mel added. Katie scoffed. “Please, like people actually do that.” Eli laughed, while Mel bristled in the front seat. “It was one time, okay? But people actually do that, so I just want you to be prepared.” Mel pulled into Katie’s driveway and turned to look at her. “All we want is for you to be a safe, focused driver. I know sometimes it seems hard, but dealing with the consequences of reckless and distracted driving can be a lot harder. Always keep that in mind.”