The Chaffin Luhana Foundation, a non-profit organization that encourages the development of human potential and supports community empowerment, is pleased to announce the winner of their annual Anti-Distracted Driving Scholarship. This award honors one student helping in the fight against distracted driving with a $1,000 scholarship to be applied toward further education.
Distracted driving claimed over 3,100 lives in 2017, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Nearly 600 “nonoccupants” (pedestrians, bicyclists, and others) were also killed.
Young adult and teen drivers are particularly at risk, with 229 killed in 2017 in distraction-affected crashes. A 2019 study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine reported that teen drivers are up to seven times more likely to be involved in a crash if they’re distracted by smartphones or other items. For every second the drivers’ eyes were off the road, the risk of a crash increased by 28 percent.
Unfortunately, many teens don’t clearly understand the danger. In a survey by the NHTSA, one-fifth of drivers age 18-20 said texting didn’t affect their driving. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) monitors health-risk behaviors among high school students and found in 2017 that 42 percent of students who drove in the past 30 days reported sending a text or email while driving.
Recognizing the danger and committed to doing something about it, each year the Chaffin Luhana Foundation invites students to submit an inspiring essay about distracted driving. These essays can be about a personal experience, a proposed awareness campaign, or technology and its impact on distracted driving in the U.S.
“Distracted driving has steadily increased, and continues to increase, on our roads,” said Eric Chaffin, founding partner of Chaffin Luhana, LLP, a plaintiffs-only law firm, “and young people are particularly at risk, not only for injuring themselves, but others. As more vehicles come equipped with dashboard technology, the problem expands, and young drivers simply aren’t aware of how quickly they can get into trouble.”
This year’s scholarship winner, Kelsey Delauter, 19, is attending North Carolina State University and offered some ideas for how to increase awareness of the dangers of distracted driving among young people. In her essay entitled, “Control Your Fate, It Can Wait,” she proposes a campaign called the “Wreckless Checklist,” a distracted driving plan that would employ eye-catching graphics, relatable videos, technology apps, and a checklist of ground rules to help educate the public about the dangers of distracted driving.
“New, young drivers are especially important to target in the campaign,” she writes. “Technology has helped create this problem, but it has been an aid in finding a solution.” She goes on to recommend Cell Control and SafeDrive, two cell phone applications that disable texts, calls, and other features while the driver is behind the wheel. SafeDrive also rewards drivers with points that can be redeemed into coupons.
This is the Chaffin Luhana Foundation’s third annual Anti-Distracted Driving Scholarship contest, with last year’s winner being Carson Kim, who’s essay “Steering Toward the Future” covered innovations, apps, and devices that could help minimize the temptation to drive distracted.
“We have to find new ways to get the message across,” Chaffin added, “and there’s nothing more effective than peer-to-peer education. Miss Delauter’s essay proposes a practical and effective way to spread the message among teens, and we’re happy to recognize her attention to this serious problem. We look forward to seeing how she will go on to make positive changes in her community.”
The NHTSA defines distracted driving as “any activity that diverts attention from driving, including talking or texting on your phone, eating and drinking, talking to people in your vehicle, fiddling with the stereo, entertainment or navigation system—anything that takes your attention away from the task of safe driving.”
Like the Chaffin Luhana Foundation, the NHTSA encourages teens to speak up when they see a friend driving while distracted, and to encourage their peers to pledge to never drive distracted. They also suggest young people become involved in their local Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD) chapter—an organization that focuses on peer-to-peer education encouraging young people to make positive life decisions.