Avoid Altering the Future
To be a safe driver is to be a considerate driver. All too often, we witness drivers with the Jordan Baker mentality, to refer to The Great Gatsby, in that they feel “It takes two to make an accident”. This mindset is the root of most accidents, and of most inappropriate driving behaviors. Such a mentality is selfish by nature, and reckless by design. Distracted driving practices, such as texting or tinkering with the stereo, lead to a countless number of traffic accidents each day. According to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, “Driver distraction is responsible for more than 58% of teen crashes”. At such a high rate, it is a miracle teen drivers even make it to their schools safely without a daily car accident. The most intriguing, and perhaps most frustrating, aspect of distracting driving fatalities is that they are completely preventable and avoidable. Texting behind the wheel is a choice, eating French Fries on the highway is not necessary, and reaching into the backseat for a water bottle is an independent decision. We all love to say “I would never drive distracted!”, yet still, continue to do so. We find ourselves close to a friend’s house, and sending a quick “Here” text as we turn onto their street. We reassure ourselves that one quick text, or a 5-minute phone call, will do no harm. Sit in the passenger seat while your friend is driving. Do you feel safe? Now, close your eyes. Count to 5. Look up. Are you in a new place? Is the car surrounded by different landmarks? Would you ever do this while you are driving? Of course not. It would be incredibly dangerous to suddenly close your eyes while driving. So, why do we continue to “close our eyes”, and look at our phones? Safety starts in the private sphere, especially between peers. When I am in the passenger seat, I hold the driver’s phone. If they need directions, I will handle Google Maps. If they want to change the song, I will be the surrogate maestro. If they decide to play with their phone, I verbalize my disdain. I threaten to get out of the car. I get emotional. I do whatever it takes to convince them to start behaving correctly. Peer education cannot be the extent of the learning process. Schools, whether they be public or private, must make distracted driving lessons a top priority. From videos to live demonstrations, it is a school’s job to educate its students about the dangers of driving distracted. Book smarts may be valuable, but it is a student’s street smarts and common sense that will propel them in life. When I think about distracted driving, I think of the “3,477 people killed” in 2015 in traffic accidents involving distracted drivers (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration). Three thousand, four hundred, and seventy-seven Americans had their stories cut short in 2015, with the number increasing each year. Every time we get behind the wheel, it is our responsibility to remember those lives and to honor them, by being responsible safe, and considerate. This is the best way to prevent injuries and death- Remember the past to stay aware in the present, and alter the future.
This is a short essay in which I discuss the importance of watching the road, rather than a hand-held device.