Out of more than 100 scholarship applicants, Tittle & Perlmuter is excited to share the two winning essays.

First Place:

Elijah Blakely’s Scholarship Essay

Driving down the highway, zooming to reach the correct exit. While traveling at speeds of 75 miles per hour, the driver decides that he must send a text. Taking his eyes off the road for the two seconds it takes becomes a moment of bad decision making. The car skids off to the shoulder of the road, spinning 360 degrees. “That was so close…” he says, shaking with fear. Sending that text had the potential of ending two or more lives. Young drivers in today’s world have numerous distractions, which prevent them from focusing on driving. They use cell phones, listen to the radio, and drive with more than one person in the car. These are distractions. Distracted driving is a growing issue among teens and young adults. Awareness and technology can address this issue.

Distracted driving is a relevant problem within the world, and especially with young adults. “Each day in the United States, approximately 9 people are killed”. More than 1,000 injured in crashes report involvement of a distracted driver. (The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)  That is far too great of an amount of people dying from preventable accidents. Drivers under 25 are the main culprits of sending text messages and emails while driving. This makes them the main group of distracted drivers. (The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration)

“Drivers under the age of 20 have the highest proportion of distraction-related fatal crashes”. This is according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. I have witnessed distracted driving with my friends. My friend missed an exit on the freeway because of a distraction. As he plugged in the auxiliary cord, his attention left the most important task at hand – driving. Thankfully, a missed exit was the worst outcome and it wasn’t deadlier.

Ending distracted driving is a colossal task in a world of never-ending technological advances. Multi-tasking while driving is a hazard, and technology use is the most common temptation. Technologies that promise ‘the ability to multi-task,’ and make life easier inundates consumers. How often does a notification sound on a mobile device? How often does the owner check to see who or what it is? Society’s draw towards technology, towards finding out who is contacting who, is strong and incredibly dangerous.

This technology is not all bad if used to combat distracted driving by targeting its most dedicated users. “92% of teens report going online daily — including 24% who say they go online “almost constantly”. These results came from a study conducted by Pew Research Center.

Teens go online every day to utilize social media and the internet. An anti-distracted driving advertisement campaign would reach millions of teens and young adults across the country. In this way, technology becomes an extremely resourceful route to promote safe and proper driving.

Anti-distracted driving advertising campaigns should target teen and young adult mobile phone users. Seventy-five percent of teens have access to smartphones (Pew Research Center). Using this information, a campaign should present personalized advertisements on social media or music applications. This provides an extremely effective outlet to produce an anti-distracted driving ad campaign.

A television ad campaign could be a secondary campaign. From a study from Teen Health and the Media, “Americans spend about one-third of their free time . . . watching television”. Using an anti-distracted driving ad campaign on television can be just as effective, if not more so. Take, for example, the anti-smoking advertisement campaign. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention conducted research and discovered critical information. “The Real Cost campaign was associated with preventing an estimated 348,398 U.S. youths aged 11–18 years from initiating smoking during 2014–2016”. Imagine the impact an anti-distracted driving advertisement campaign would have on teens. Distracted, teenaged drivers cannot ignore messages that combine both television and social media to get the message out.

One last possible solution that would take advantage of profound usage of cell phones is a free application. An application that enables you to track your phone usage and driving time. Different methods of input would establish various options to ensure credibility of the information. Linking the cell phone and GPS network will track trip time and distance for potential routes, guaranteeing accurate vehicle usage. Adding to this information, the app will enable a cell phone usage log. The usage log will show what app the owner uses and when they viewed that app.

The app will also establish a parental setting in addition to the input of these statistics. The setting allows parents to disable their child’s cell phone at any time. The app will send parents a notification when these two measuring statements are active. Depending on parent preferences, the app can enable an automatic turn off if there is app usage while driving. With technology always adapting, this is an extremely feasible option to cut down on distracted driving via cell phone use.

Will these be effective routes to lower distracted driving? Persistence is key because the future is not predictable. The best chance of decreasing distracted driving is to focus on a lock down for the most affected age group. The age group is young adults. Clearly, there is a large amount of young adults driving distracted. They are too young to appreciate the severity of this issue.

Completely submersing yourself into a culture is a known way to effectively understand a new language. Similarly, distracted-drivers must see and understand the severity of their actions. Individuals should have exposure to the effects of distracted-driving on social media and television. This needs to happen before they find themselves in the middle of it. We can accomplish this, with time and diligence. The hard work to address distracted driving will pay off to help an entire generation prevent potentially horrific driving accidents. This will improving our nation’s safety while driving.

 

scholarship winner

Second Place:

Sarika Ram’s Scholarship Essay

The numbers don’t lie. There is a self-control issue that is out of hand. Yearly, around 3,000 people die and 400,000 are injured in car crashes caused by distracted driving. The increasing number of those impacted by a distracted driving crash is directly correlated to the surge in cell phone use within the past decade.

Furthermore, the issue of distracted driving is one that I personally find important and pertinent, as it is, although widespread, particularly common among my peer group of teenagers. Statistically, 11% of drivers, 15-19 years old, involved in a fatal accident were deemed distracted at the point of the crash. While I do not engage with my phone on the road, I am far unaffected by this issue. I must continue this habit of safe driving, urge my friends and family to do the same, and express my perspective on current distracted driving legislation to local and federal government officials.

In response to the rise of distracted driving-related incidents, forty-six states and the District of Columbia have banned texting-and- driving. Unfortunately, these laws have not been influential due to the specific nature of their terminology and the difficulty of authorities to certainly convict a driver of texting-and-driving.

For example, there are exceptions to certain state laws, such as in Virginia. Virginia allows mobile use while stopped in traffic or at an intersection. These types of nuances in legislation’s verbiage result in enforcement challenges that lessen these laws’ overall efficacy. Other states’ laws are specific to texting-and-driving and do not ban all personal device use, so drivers are able to defend their distracted actions if they are, for instance, using a GPS app. Therefore, in order to certainly validate a driver’s texting-and-driving charge, the police would have to subpoena phone records as evidence. These tedious efforts, for a “minor traffic violation” result in tickets of $25-$400, which are rarely pursued. Therefore, texting-and-driving infractions go largely unreported.

The limited severity of the government’s rules and regulations demonstrate a necessity for laws to be repositioned in a way that yields greater compliance. In other words, law enforcement must change penalties and enforcement strategies to more harshly reflect the serious nature of texting-and-driving. In addition, mere recommendations to automobile manufacturers about preventative distracted driving measures must become mandatory standards.

This perspective is supported by expert research validating the effectiveness of the “three E’s” approach to successfully carrying out a law. These E’s, in order, include enacting a law, educating the public about the law, and thoroughly enforcing the law. Most states have the legislation in place, and the government has launched nationwide campaigns, such as the U.S. Department of Transportation’s “Faces of Distracted Driving” video series. Therefore, the lack of visible results from texting-and- driving legislation is a result of an enforcement gap. States with harsher penalties for texting-and- driving infractions and all-encompassing laws towards cell phone use have seen greater results among their drivers. For example, New York’s punishment for a texting-and-driving charge also includes points on a driver’s record, which potentially leads to higher insurance rates, and 14 states have banned driver mobile use under all circumstances.

Regarding enforcement, the nature of a texting-and-driving charge requires that police authorities be proactive. In some states, officers have taken to creative enforcement methods. These methods increased the number of reprimanded texting-and-driving law violators. For instance, a policeman in West Bridgewater, Massachusetts, navigates the roads on his bicycle to approach drivers at stoplights about their texting-and-driving infractions.

In terms of car manufacturers, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has outlined suggested guidelines for them to reduce the distracted driving risk of built-in hardware, like radios, TVs, and GPS interfaces. The most recent phase of voluntary guidelines suggests the installation of features like Bluetooth pairing, which connects a driver’s personal device to the car infotainment system, and Drive Mode, which simplifies a car’s user interface. While the implementation of these guidelines is proven to significantly reduce the time drivers in future car models will spend fiddling with their mobile devices, car manufacturers can ignore these recommendations at their own discretion. Therefore, in order for the government to guarantee that all cars in the future will be designed with precautionary measures in place, these guidelines must become compulsory.

Even with these legal changes, not all instances of distracted driving are appropriately identified and reprimanded because its occurrence is all too common. At any given time, 660,000 people are “using cell phones or manipulating electronic devices while driving at any given daylight moment.”

My friends and I go out of our way to be safe drivers. However, I’ve witnessed several troubling incidents of distracted driving. I have seen Snapchat stories of classmates who are recording the road or their friends while simultaneously driving.

My parents both suffer from a habit of using their phones as they are driving. My mother will usually check her text messages while stopped at a red light and make necessary calls while driving, and my father, as a landlord, is constantly in contact with tenants and laborers via both text and call. When I am in the car with them, I make sure that I’m making any texts and calls on their behalf to eliminate their distraction. While none of these instances of distracted driving resulted in a vehicle accident and the drivers I mentioned would consider themselves as “in control,” there is a statistically inevitable risk to distracted driving.

In recent years, distracted drivers began using proven personal strategies to take control of their dangerous habits. These include turning off ring and text tones, putting the phone out of reach or installing a mobile app, like Live2Txt and SafeDrive. While apps like Live2Txt completely block incoming calls and texts, SafeDrive rewards the driver with points that add up to discounts at participating stores and restaurants.

At the end of the day, the most effective and long-lasting solution to distracted driving is for drivers to personally take responsibility for their actions and set a standard of no tolerance for cell phone use behind the wheel, thereby influencing future drivers to do the same.

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