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The 2018 CLF National Anti-Distracted Driving Scholarship Winner’s Essay

The essay below was submitted to The 2017-2018 National Chaffin Luhana Anti-Distracted Driving Scholarship Essay Contest by Carson Kim of South Mecklenburg High School in Charlotte, NC.

Steering Toward the Future

In modern society, technology prospers and yet harms us at the same time. It has streamlined communication between people and offers increased convenience for carrying out day-to-day tasks. However, this increased connectivity has come with fatal strings attached. Because of the addictive nature of phones and the sense of urgency that people feel when receiving a notification, it has led to drivers abandoning their attention to the road and instead directing it toward their device. This has caused a nationwide epidemic of deaths, especially teenage deaths, due to distracted driving, and cell phones are the main culprit. These seemingly innocuous devices are disastrous for teens who are unaware of the deadly consequences of distracted driving. States should take significant measures in implementing legislation that regulates the use of cellular technology within the vehicle in order to curb these tragedies.

According to The National Safety Council, cell phone use while driving leads to 1.6 million crashes each year, and nearly 330,000 injuries occur each year from accidents caused by texting while driving (NSC.org). In addition, it was reported in 2015 that 42% of teens say they have texted while driving, so it is no wonder why texting and driving is the leading cause of death in teens (Newsday.com). The reason why cell phones are so dangerous in the car is partly because teens don’t really understand how dangerous they are. While substances such as alcohol and drugs are obvious no-no’s for drivers, something as instrumental to the life of a teen as a smartphone seems harmless to use inside a vehicle. Dr. Andrew Adesman, a leading researcher in distracted driving, notes that “We have very strong taboos against drinking and driving. Kids don’t drink and drive every day.  But some kids are out there texting and driving seven days a week — and they admit it” (Adesman). Parents and state regulators alike need to create a driving environment that condemns the driver’s hands-on usage of cell phones in the vehicle, placing an emphasis purely on the protection of the teen driver and his or her surroundings.

In an ironic twist, technology could be the best solution for putting an end to distracted driving by limiting or negating their use in the vehicle. State funding could subsidize vehicles with hands-free technology built into the dashboard to encourage more car manufacturers to implement them. Hands-free technology, through tech like bluetooth connection and voice activation, allows for easier access of cell phone operations without the dangers of a driver taking his or her eyes off the road. Apple’s CarPlay is a great example of hands-free tech software becoming an industry standard. Many modern vehicles are CarPlay compatible and have a display ready to be connected to a driver’s iPhone. This allows drivers to use their voice as a controller to make phone calls, dictate text messages, and adjust radio volume.

Additionally, a number of innovators are working on devices that connect to a driver’s cell phone provider and block all incoming messages, calls, and other notifications while a car is in motion (CNN.com). These devices can be controlled by a parent at their discretion and makes the teen’s phones virtually useless in the vehicle. This technology is great for newer, less-disciplined drivers who have a hard time ignoring their friends’ text messages or social media notifications. Although these communication blocking devices are a lot less robust than CarPlay or other hands-free tech software, they are a lot easier to implement for drivers whose phones are not compatible with CarPlay. If the DMV makes this kind of tech more accessible, it will certainly reduce the number of distracted teen drivers and put people in a low-risk road environment.

Approximately 82% of Americans said they felt the most pressure from their families and 50% from their friends to use phones while driving (National Safety Council). When receiving a call or text message from a loved one, drivers may feel it is more important than keeping their attention toward driving and may feel motivated to respond. This sort of compulsive behavior is reflective of a technology-dependent age. Technology seems to be a burden for many who feel obligated to use their phones in the vehicle for work or for family. However, the greatest solution is right in our phones themselves. Through new innovations, gadgets, and apps that help control the use of devices within the vehicle, drivers can feel safe and secure during their daily commutes.

Works cited:

  1. NSC. “Distracted Driving Public Opinion Poll.” Distracted Driving Public Opinion Poll, Mar. 2016, pp. 1–12., www.nsc.org/Portals/0/Documents/NewsDocuments/2016/DD-Methodology-Summary-033116.pdf.
  2. Ricks, Delthia. “Study: Texting and Driving Top Cause in Teen Driving Deaths.”Newsday, Newsday, 28 Apr. 2014, www.newsday.com/news/nation/study-texting-while-driving-now-leading-cause-of-death-for-teen-drivers-1.5226036.
  3. Wallace, Kelly, and Meridith Edwards. “Distracted Driving: Is Technology the Answer?”CNN, Cable News Network, 9 Aug. 2016, www.cnn.com/2016/08/04/health/distracted-driving-technology-solution/index.html.