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Winner of The 2017 CLF National Anti-Distracted Driving Scholarship Essay Contest

Our phones have taken over. Every day, even in this very second, a teenager is driving while distracted on their phone. Twitter. Facebook. Instagram. Texting. And the social media app that has officially taken over: Snapchat. I attend Rangeview High School, which is located in the zip code area with the highest incidences of distracted teen driving accidents in Colorado. Shocking? Absolutely, and probably because no one talks about this. In fact, when I shared this statistic with the administrators in my school, their jaws dropped in disbelief. Driving distracted does not include just being on your phone–it’s alcohol, drugs, music, sleep deprivation, speeding, and even a passenger in your car. As teens gain more experience driving, they often think they are great drivers and indestructible, but as it is seen in the statistics for 80013, that is not the case. Because of this shocking information, my friends in JJ’s Light and I decided that it was time to bring awareness to our school.

JJ’s Light is a non-profit organization in which I am both a proud member and secretary. It is a foundation that awards grants to children who have recently lost a parent in order to financially support their extracurricular activities. JJ’s Light was founded because my friend lost her father in a car accident. Her father fell asleep behind the wheel, and for this reason, the organization means a lot to me. This issue of distracted driving goes way beyond teens. By educating the youth now and forcing them to face the harsh realization of what a collision can entail, they can make better life decisions behind the wheel in the future. I care so much about this issue because I am tired of watching videos on Snapchat of my friends driving while lip syncing to the radio and putting their lives in danger. I don’t want us to be just another statistic. I want us to change the statistics.

With JJ’s Light, we stirred up the conversation of distracted driving in my school. At the beginning of the second semester we held a distracted driving campaign which was a week-long event called Teens Behind the Wheel. With this campaign, we communicated the importance of responsible driving across to many people. We presented for our school’s principal, deans, and administrators in order to get permission to proceed with our project and worked closely with our sponsors and mentors. During the first week of January, our entire school experienced class presentations featuring hard facts, emotional videos, and personal stories. We separated each grade and presented during assemblies with power points made directly for their specific class and age range. We wanted to target their specific age group in order for them to personally relate to the issue at hand. For freshmen and sophomores, we focused on educating them on speaking up if the driver is distracted, especially since most of them are passengers in the cars of upperclassmen. For juniors and seniors, we targeted the fact that they are now driving, but have to be responsible in order to save their own lives, and the lives of others. Driving simulators were set up during lunch to show the impact alcohol and cellphone use can have on driving. At the end of the week, we held a live event with a Flight For Life helicopter, ambulances, police, and fire trucks to simulate a collision and show the reality of a fatal accident. It was a very surreal event that has had a lasting impact on the students at my school.

I believe if every school held a distracted driving campaign, it would be a huge step towards putting an end to distracted driving. Using what I have learned through this experience, I can apply this and take it with me to other chapters in my life, including college. The resources I have acquired through this project, and the knowledge I have gained in order to make campaigns like this happen will follow me wherever I go. I will continue to advocate safe driving, and using the steps and processes I went through with JJ’s Light, I will expand this distracted driving event to different schools and campuses. The issue of distracted driving is universal, and with this event, we started making a difference and opened the eyes of students, and I hope to bring this awareness to different age groups in the near future.

I currently attend Rangeview High School as a senior, and will attend Colorado State University starting in the fall of 2017. I will be studying Psychology and hope to eventually get a master’s degree in Occupational Therapy.