Buzz. Buzz. She was driving home from work when her phone interrupted her singing (or maybe screaming) of her favorite oldie, When she pulled up and stopped at the stoplight, she checked her phone- saw it was a text from her husband and quickly responded. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw that the light had turned green, so she pressed the gas. Metal crunching and her car crashing interrupted her daze. She frantically hopped out of her car and called 911. People were stopping and running to the scene. How did she hit the boy? Pure shock. She wondered how she could be so reckless. The text was, “I love you”. It seemed so stupid to her now. She could only hope that this little boy’s mother would have the chance to say those three simple words to him again. She hoped because she had no control. All of a sudden, she was a statistic- one of every four collisions that involve cell phones. This morning, she was just a wife and a mom. He had just got his license a week ago- sixteen and fearless. He decided to drive his three best friends to a concert a couple of hours away. His mom was worried but he convinced her. Did she know that the risk of a crash quadruples with three or more passengers underage? Would it have mattered? He should be home by 1 or 2 a.m., it should be okay. They all had the most amazing night, just like he knew he would. Driving home- music blaring, friends screaming, and phone cameras flashing- would be a different story. It only took one moment. He turned around to mess with his friend but when he turned back- he was too late. Within seconds, he had swerved too much to the left on a fast turn on the country road. He hit the oncoming car with unforeseeable impact- killing himself, injuring his friends, and killing a father. Sixteen and fearless? She was driving to work, running late, and doing her makeup- it was a big day. She had to look the part. She pulled out her red lipstick, the one that complemented her dark, long hair. She pulled down the mirror and put it on her lips. She thought, “Perf–“. But the sound of her car crashing interrupted. As she drove up a hill, she had hit an elderly man crossing the road for his mail. Lipstick or a life? The public needs to be more aware of the risks of distracted driving. Increasing awareness through PSAs, news stories, or programs like CARTEENS in my community could help prevent fatalities and injuries. Parents need to teach their children, laws against distracted driving in all of its forms- from eating and drinking to texting- have to be enforced, and us teens and even children have to pay attention. Preventing distracted driving is not just a driving reform- it is a moral reform. What is more important- a text or a life? Applying lipstick or a life? A song or a life? A phone call or a life? The answer is always a life. Driving distracted is not an accident- it is a choice. It can become a habit. It can be fatal. But it can be prevented. We have the potential to raise the next generation of safe drivers. Cars can be a weapon as lethal as a gun or they can be our means from point A to point B. Whether we choose defensive driving or distracted driving is our choice. It only takes one moment.
I am currently the president of the CARTEENS 4-H Club in Washington County, Ohio. Last year, I won the Ohio CARTEENS 4-H award. At CARTEENS, we lead presentations once a month to first-time teen traffic offenders and their parents- a program ordered by the court. We have a trooper come and talk part of the time, and then us teens lead games and activities to teach the participants. We also show videos on topics like distracted driving and drunk driving- I have shown videos from Impact Teens at many meetings, as well. My favorite game that we lead is called “Distractions”. We have one participant be the driver and they have to count down from 100 (100,99, 98…) for 15 seconds (the counting represents driving throughout the game). We record the number they reached, as we do for each scenario. The next time, we have them do a puzzle- this represents a distraction like adjusting your radio or rolling your windows down and they still count down from 100 for 15 seconds. The counting represents “driving.” We record the number. Then we have them do a puzzle (representing a distraction), count (representing driving), and now talk to their passenger for a topic for 15 seconds. We record the number they reach. Then, we keep all the distractions and the counting- we add music. The final time, we have music, passenger, puzzle, counting, and both participants are wearing fatal vision goggles. We record the number. In the end, we compare the numbers, and it demonstrates how the more distractions that they had- the harder it was to reach lower numbers. We have a discussion with the group about the dangers of distracted driving and how it impairs our ability to think and react quickly while driving. This game is always lots of fun, but there is always a lot to be learned. Many people are not consciously aware of distractions in their car while they are driving, and I enjoy helping raise awareness to people in my community. I wrote this essay to help advocate against distracted driving and raise awareness for this issue. I also write based on my knowledge about this issue through my involvement in the CARTEENS club for five years. Everyone on the roads has a right to be safe- pedestrians, drivers, or passengers.