Brittany Jackson's 2015 Winning Scholarship Essay
Written by Brittany Jackson
In 2005, my uncle and 13-year-old cousin were in a head-on collision with a gravel truck that ran a stop light at a busy intersection on the west side of Chicago. They both sustained life-altering injuries, including, but not limited to, significant scarring from the glass that shattered in my cousin’s face. The gravel truck owner claimed that he had “momentarily looked away” and could not stop fast enough to prevent the accident. Although the trucking company was already anxious to settle, it was believed that the truck driver was texting while driving. No amount of money could repair the damage that had been done.
10 years later, the growth in cell phone technology has increased exponentially, including hands-free devices for use in cars and trucks. Despite the availability of safe, car-friendly technology, I have personally been on call to comfort and help families who have had children and relatives in the hospital following accidents precipitated by texting and driving. These tragedies could have easily been averted had the drivers been alert and focused on road signs and conditions. There is tremendous need for further action on the part of legislators and communities to implement regulations to discourage the use of hands-on mobile technology.
Although 43 states prohibit the use of texting while driving, teens will often still admit to texting or emailing while driving. If texting while driving makes you 23 times more likely to be in an accident according to the National Highway Transportation Administration, is not the danger worthy of stiffer penalties? The statistics could be equated to those of driving under the influence of alcohol.
Individuals have the right to text, just like adults over the age of 21 have the right to consume alcohol. However, an impaired driver does not have the right to self-governed transportation. The same should be true of individuals with impaired judgment and slower response times because they are under the influence of a glowing cell phone screen. The current consequences for a DUI include jail time, fines, and a suspended license. It would be logical for a variation of this same legislation to be implemented and applied to texting and driving. An individual’s right to privacy needs to be preserved but if a driver is caught weaving on the road, it should be within a police officer’s rights to check the date and time of the last text on a driver’s cell phone, just as they would perform a breathalyzer check on a DUI suspect. Likewise, if an officer is a witness to an individual texting and driving, penalties should be enforced.
Legislation alone, however, will not be enough to change the dynamics of dangerous communication among younger populations. The process of enacting this change needs to be two-fold. Donations, grants, and individual sponsorships need to be acquired to fund an ad campaign to be launched in conjunction with new laws and stiffer regulations. According to a 2014 article I read concerning a teen survey performed by AT&T, 97% of teens know that texting while driving is dangerous but 43% of them still do it. This is an issue not only of statistics and consequences but also of an individual’s capacity to care more about the safety of others than the pressure to respond to a text. People have the ability to change but the change has to come about not only through legislation but through a reformation of perspective. Lawmakers will be the instigators but enforcement and community cooperation will be key to seeing safety upheld in a new age of responsible technology.