Suzi Baydek, a Sehome High School sophomore, wrote the winning essay for the 2015 Scholarship Contest. This annual scholarship contest gives cash prizes to the top three essays received. This year's topic was "How can teens help reduce the number of collisions caused by distracted drivers?" Suzi offered several helpful tips, and encourages drivers - teens and adults alike - to sign a pledge to not drive while distracted. Her essay is below:
Distracted driving is dangerous. I’m sixteen years old and have my permit to drive. It scares me to think of the many dangers on the road. My parents remind me ALL THE TIME that there are more cars on the road these days than when they were driving, and everyone seems to be in a hurry. I take the increased risks of distracted driving very seriously. That’s why I have taken the time to go to Driving School before I get my license, and have taken the pledge to not text and drive.
The United States Department of Transportation notes that cell phones are involved in 1.6 million car accidents a year that cause half a million injuries and take 6,000 lives. The statistics are clear that distracted drivers are 23% more likely to crash.
I think more teens should consider the dangers on the road before they get behind the wheel. Knowing the number of people who die due to accidents involving texting or talking on the phone makes me question how people can still do it. Get as much practice in as possible and make sure that when you are ready to get your license you understand that a car is a big piece of machinery that can kill someone in an instant and could make you a responsible for someone's death before you even graduate. That’s just one of the suggestions I have that teens can do to help reduce the number of collisions caused by distracted drivers. Taking driving seriously every time you get behind the wheel is step one.
The next is probably the most basic: never put your phone in a position that allows you to access it while driving. Some suggest locking it in the glove box, trunk or backseat. It really comes down to the driver making a decision to not be tempted to check the phone while driving. Texting while driving has become the number one driving distraction for many people - not just teens. Drivers need to be aware of the dangers and keep their attention on the road, not on their cell phone or other mobile devices.
Teens are very vulnerable when it comes to texting and driving. Because they are inexperienced, it is crucial that they stay aware of their surroundings and get into the habit of keeping their phones away from them while the engine is running. If they get into the routine of putting their phone away as young drivers it will cement the idea so that it will not be a problem as they become older. Young drivers have been accustomed to seeing their parents and other adult figures use their phones while on the road. This gives the teens the impression that it’s okay to do it, but they need to realize that it is not worth the risk. Drivers need to slow down and educate themselves on the risks they are taking for themselves, those in the car and innocent victims. Driving is a privilege, not a right and it comes with responsibilities.
My next suggestion is to every passenger, no matter what your age, that it’s okay to tell drivers you get in the car with that you care about them and don’t want them to be a distracted driver. Express that you truly wish they would not use the phone while driving. Stating this in a positive, yet respectful manner is okay, and make it a habit each time you get in the car to help make sure the driver is focused on safe driving.
My final suggestion is that we all take the pledge – “Don’t Text and Drive, Let’s Save Some Lives”. This should be introduced to all Bellingham students to increase awareness at the youngest age possible. There have been many campaigns to raise awareness including taking this pledge. I think this one is pretty powerful. We learned about distracted driving in Driving School. They offered many videos that showed the terrible consequences of accidents. This shouldn’t be the only place we learn about this information, we should also have this message in school with posters, topics in discussion groups and assemblies.
Distracted driving continues to increase annually, as do the number of accidents. Each of us can make a difference. It is important to know the facts and make the changes necessary to stop this trend.
What you can do:
Take this online pledge to stop distracted driving. Please share it with friends and family, and Don't Text and Drive!
Learn more about the risks associated with distracted driving: statistics on how dangerous it is to text and drive