Passengers: Stop Distracting Drivers
It’s afternoon and you and your best friends are driving down an abandoned country road. Your friend’s playlist is blaring from the speakers, everyone’s hair is blowing in the summer air, and you and your friends are laughing and shouting. You are having an amazing time, such an innocent time. But then you feel it, the airbag is released, your friend is screaming and your car is spinning off the road. Hours later as your family surrounds your hospital bed, you realize that something terrible has just happened. When the police begin interviewing you, they tell you that you were driving 80 mph, lost control, and collided into a tree. Everyone is alive, but the path to recovery will be long and hard. However while listening to the police and your family, you cannot understand how you – a responsible student, driver, and human-being – was driving double the speed limit, failed to realize, and jeopardized your own and your best friends’ lives. In an attempt to understand what just happened, you begin to replay the situation from different perspectives. Road: It’s afternoon and you feel the car speeding on you. The car is vibrating from the music blasting from its speakers. You hear teenagers screeching at one another and the driver. Unsurprisingly, you feel the car hit a bump and since it’s speeding, you feel it spinning off of you. Off in a distance, you hear the sound of the car crashing into a tree. Friend: It’s afternoon and you are riding in the backseat of your friend’s new car. You ask her, the driver, for a song suggestion while scrolling through your playlist, and then you shout to your other friend about something that happened last week. All of a sudden, you find yourself screaming and colliding into a tree. That is when you remember. You remember your friend asking for a song suggestion. You remember your other friends shouting about an upcoming trip to the beach. You remember laughing so hard from a joke your friend told you. And that’s when it hits you. You were distracted. Not from other cars on the road, but rather, from your own passengers. No one is immune to crashes. Too often are teens injured or killed in single-car crashes. Too often are teens unaware of the dangers they put themselves in by being ignorant to the responsibilities of riding in a car. But here is the catch, as drivers, many understand the importance of being aware and responsible, yet sadly, many passengers fail to recognize the dangerous distractions in which they cause. Further, often teens pile their friends into a car to go for a ride. What happens is that these drivers fail to convey to their friends about the importance of being considerate passengers. When these situations turn into deadly collisions, too frequently are the drivers the ones blamed for these crashes. Passengers need to start to realize their responsibilities when they get inside a car. As a society, we need to begin to educate each other on respecting the privilege of driving, but more importantly, the privilege of riding in cars. We work so hard on educating everyone about the dangers of drowsy driving and texting while driving, but we fail to stress the importance of the role of being a passenger. Once we begin to teach students that being a distracting passenger is as bad as texting and driving, our world will be a safer place. Passengers need to be held accountable for their actions, and teens need to be unafraid to tell others to “Stop it.”
Backstory: Living in a community with both rural roads and major highways, I have seen many crashes and collisions that have affected people I know. Last year, a student from a local high school was killed in a single-car crash. She was speeding on a country road, lost control, and was ejected from her car. This caused me to see the firsthand impact her death had on the community around her. She was only 16. Along with single car crashes, I have also been exposed to other teens piling their cars full of friends and being distracted by them. I find this issue to be such an important issue that can be solved through education, awareness, and compassion. Not enough stress has been put on the role of a passenger which is why I decided to focus on it.