1st place 2015 – Catherine McNiell

Be the driver we can trust:

How I will raise awareness on texting while driving ban.

“It’s not you I don’t trust, it’s the other drivers.” I can still hear those words mummer out of my dad’s mouth as I enter my car for the 1000th time. I used to think that was his sly way of telling me I couldn’t drive somewhere because he did not trust me, but as I look back on those repetitive words I finally get it. Cars are dangerous machines and when the person operating them is distracted it creates a recipe for disaster. You can’t trust anyone.

The generation we are in is known as the “plugged in” generation and today’s teenagers do not know how to disconnect. This inability to disconnect from the world via a handheld device is an addiction that has taken over our society and is the result of thousands of accidents and deaths every year. Oklahoma’s new ban on texting and driving is the start of a movement that will raise responsiveness and could ultimately help save lives.

Now that Oklahoma has successfully put this action into law the biggest challenge will be enforcing it. People will not feel threat of the law until something happens to them, so that why we as citizens should help to bring awareness of the new ban. Many people tend to blame technology for why people are constantly disconnected and distracted, but this “plugged in” society is never going to change and is only going to get worse as technology continues to innovate. So instead of blaming technology we have to work alongside with and create an environment in which drivers can be trusted with it. Drivers, like me, need to be trusted and they can do that by taking action. The following are ways that I will take action to raise awareness on the texting while driving ban.

Disconnect. Drivers typically will not be behind the wheel for very long so disconnect for that little amount of time. Go hands free. With innovative technology more and more cars are developing ways in which drivers can still be connected, but hands free. Even those who do not have such accessibility should go hands free by putting down the phone. I have taken the step to completely turn off my device or silence it until I have stopped the car.

Don’t facilitate. It is important to not enable other drivers. If you know someone in the car don’t distract them by texting or calling them. When you are a passenger and you get into the car with another person who is distracted you have put yourself in danger. You immediately cannot trust the driver and is the risk of your life really worth it? Speak up. You could help prevent an accident by speaking up for yourself and on behalf of others.

Be an example. People tend to look at each other for an example they can follow and if you are texting others may think it is okay to do that too. Whether it be kids, parents, or friends people take note and will follow if they think it’s the right thing to do. If I lead by example and not text while driving I believe others will follow.

Take the pledge. I have taken the pledge that I will not text while driving. I cannot imagine life knowing I have seriously injured or hurt anyone all because I looked down at a single text for three seconds. No life is worth dying because of a silly distraction. Encouraging others to take this pledge will help make our community safer.

Oklahoma has taken a forward step to protecting the lives of the community. However, the decision to text while driving still boils down to a personal choice when getting behind the wheel. Drivers can raise awareness by choosing to disconnect when behind the wheel. As soon as you choose to pick up your phone while behind the wheel just know you have already put someone else’s daughter, son, brother, or sister in danger. Like my dad’s wishes, be the other driver people can trust.