Honorable Mention: Kayla Myers
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The final honorable mention of our Driver Safety Scholarship Essay Contest belongs to Ms. Kayla Myers. Her entry tackles drunk driving, distracted driving, the prevalence of accidents among younger drivers, and the unfortunate lack of mandatory driver's education programs across the country. She also discusses the fact that infrastructural problems are making notable contributions to unsafe road conditions - a problem which is being woefully ignored on a state, local, and national level. You can read her entry below.
Kayla's AIEZ Driver Safety Scholarship Contest Entry:
In a single year there are approximately two million reported auto-collisions on our nation’s highways. Reducing this number is crucial as thousands of people are losing their lives every year. Auto-collisions are caused by a number of varied reasons, from drunk driving, to poor visibility, to distracted driving. The large number of auto-collisions should cause the public to initiate some common sense solutions in an effort to decrease the number of accidents.
The first step that should be taken to reduce the number of auto-collisions is to discourage and keep drunk drivers off of our nation’s roads. Approximately half of all auto-collisions involve intoxicants. In order to prevent the number of drunk drivers, legislators should consider further decreases in the blood-alcohol limit. A legal limit of 0.08% makes individuals believe that it is still safe to drive if they are slightly intoxicated. Therefore, it is important to start a campaign to inform the public that even small amounts of alcohol impair an individual’s ability to drive.
Many people drive their vehicles while they are distracted and end up in accidents. When a person is eating, texting, changing the radio station, and even talking on cell phones their focus is not on driving and their surroundings. Many times this can contribute to an accident as the driver is either not aware of their surroundings or does not have the ability to react in time to avoid the accident. Creating a public initiative and educating the public on the dangers of distracted driving is imperative in reducing the number of accidents in our country. The consequences of teenagers driving distracted are often much more frequent and worse than when adults drive distracted. For instance, when it comes to texting, distracteddriveraccidents.com reports teen drivers are 400% more likely of being in an accident when texting than adults and even though 94% of teenagers understand these consequences, they choose to text anyway. Educating teens is the first step in effecting change.
The statistics involving teenagers and accidents are astronomical and since each state legislates and enforces their own driving laws, efforts should be made by all states to make the requirements universal. In order to address distracted driving among teenagers, states should hold a summit and agree on universal teenage driving laws which they then would legislate. The summit should include guest speakers addressing specific topics relevant to distracted driving and the statistics surrounding teenage driving. Everything from the best age to allow permits to the number of people in a vehicle should be addressed. By developing a consensus, the states could then pass new laws and help eliminate some of the problem areas with teenage driving and accidents. This consensus would start teenagers off on a universal path and hopefully cause them to become better drivers as they approach adulthood.
Additionally, every teenager wishing to drive should be required to take a driver’s safety course. This course should include classroom and on-the-road portions and ideally should require the instructor to sign off on the student being able to take their official driver’s test. This would serve as a safeguard as the instructor would be in the best position to objectively judge the student’s ability. After successful completion of the course the student would receive an official document allowing them to take the state’s driver test. In the best possible scenario, this course would be offered in high schools across the nation as part of the physical education and health curriculum.
Another way to help teenagers understand the consequences of distracted driving is for school systems to hold assemblies as teenagers tend to listen to people other than their parents. The best possible speakers would be ones who experienced a life changing event involving a distracted driver. One such speaker today is Joe Feldman. In 2009, his daughter, Casey, was killed by a distracted driver. Although the accident changed his world, he went on to work with Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia to create an interactive driving program which he presents across the country. Programs like his would effectively cause teenagers to participate and would have the ability to change behaviors and ultimately save lives.
Since distracted driving is not limited to teens and since all age groups admit they do things like texting when they know they shouldn’t, there should be universally consequences for any person found guilty of distracted driving. For instance, if a person is found guilty of distracted driving, they should lose their license for a significant period of time and/or be required to perform community service. Ideally, their community service should be in an area which would benefit people harmed by unsafe driving.
Although distracted driving is prevalent, it can be combatted. When it comes to teenagers, this can be done by passing universal laws, requiring mandatory driver’s safety courses and holding school assemblies with motivational speakers. To help address the problem of distracted driving for everyone, states should initiating severe consequences for those found guilty of distracted driving. By tackling this problem of distracted driving from several directions, society can help teenagers and adults develop better understanding of the consequences of distracted driving.
Another cheap and easy way to reduce accidents is to improve the signs on our nation’s highways. While interstates may have many signs, local highways often are not as informative, making navigating difficult. Simply by increasing the size and the frequency of signs on highways and other roadways will reduce confusion of drivers and result in a lower number of auto-collisions across the country.
Additionally, many accidents occur due to issues with visibility. A large number of accidents occur at night, despite the fact that there are fewer cars on the roads during late evening hours. Poor lighting is often a significant factor, especially at intersections and in rural areas. In addition to lighting being a problem, intersections may also be dangerous due to large objects impairing the driver’s ability to see. Due to these issues it is important that townships and municipalities consider lighting when assessing their roadways and visibility should be taken into consideration when planting trees and plants or placing signage. Improving lighting and keeping obstructions away from roads will help increase visibility and reduce auto-collisions.
Redesigning highways in some areas may be necessary in order to prevent the number of auto-collisions. For example, creating more divided highways or implementing rumble strips would be useful in preventing head-on collisions. This is very important because a head-on collision on a highway has the tendency to be fatal as the speed limits are much higher than on a winding country road. A combination of divided highways and rumple strips would be ideal as it not only decreases head-on collisions but also keeps drivers more attentive as the noise from the rumble strip warns of drifting towards other lanes.
Another method to make highways less prone to auto-collisions would be to create more turn only lanes. This is a cheap and effective method as the lanes do not take up much space and they prevent accidents caused by either passing stopped cars waiting to turn, or those caused by inattentive drivers.
By improving the driving conditions of the roads, numerous accidents every day could be avoided. For example, simply filling in potholes would reduce multiple accidents. Weather conditions also contribute to auto-collisions. During the winter season it is important that roads are cleared quickly and efficiently. Roadways should also be built to ensure there is proper drainage. This would ensure water is funneled off the roadway and will reduce the likelihood of flooding and hydroplaning. Since many accidents are a result of bad road conditions and weather conditions, improving the drainage and even implementing cautionary speed limits, the number of auto-collisions can be significantly decreased.
According to Fortune Magazine, 2016 was one of the deadliest years on the books when it came to driving. It is believed 40,000 people lost their lives to automobile accidents in the United States in 2016. This is an increase of six percent from 2015. Additionally, the number of auto-collisions our country experiences every year is around two million. These numbers are astounding and do not begin to put into perspective the scores of lives and families affected by accidents each year. It is because of these numbers that driver’s safety is needed. People know they should not drink and drive, yet many do. People know they should not text and drive, yet they do. Instituting common sense solutions, such as further reducing the legal blood-alcohol limit, incorporating universal driving laws, improving drainage and lighting, and educating the public on intoxication and distracted driving are rather easy to implement and would ultimately result in less accidents. Creating turning lanes or adding rumble strips have additional benefits that have also been shown to reduce the number of auto-collisions. The important part is for townships, municipalities, states, and our government officials to get involved and begin implementing even small changes to reduce the number of auto-collisions in the United States.