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Clayton

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Subject: What can we do to reduce auto-collisions on our Nation’s highways?

Writer: Clayton

Auto accidents indiscriminately maim and kill people every day, without warning or justification, often destroying families and ending lives too soon. Society would never condone a teenager’s one­ handed operation of a 4,000­ pound piece of equipment traveling at 70 miles per hour in the dark on a six lane road while reading. But it happens every day, and as handheld technology becomes progressively more common, more teenagers drive while distracted. Statistically car crashes involving teenagers are the leading cause of death for this age group. A 2015 Virginia Tech study found that 90 percent of teens admit to texting while driving. Teens are 23 percent more likely to be involved in an accident while texting. Even with these terrifying statics, many states view texting while driving as a non­moving violation or a second ­degree, noncriminal violation. However, many feel there should be similar penalties for texting as for DUI.

Driving is a rite of passage for teenagers. The independence of driving gives them the ability to control part of their own destiny while freeing up many a tired parent. The constant rounds of after­school activities blind many parents to the dangers of teenage driving. Since the early 1980’s organizations like MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving) have brought this issue to the forefront by showcasing the tragic loss of life due to DUI accidents. In conjunction with this valiant effort, stiffer penalties for DUIs have dramatically decreased the death rate for teen drivers. The penalty for DUI arrest in Florida is first offense, six to nine months in jail, up to a $2,000 fine, and license suspension up to a year; second offense, one year in jail, up to a $4,000 fine, and license suspension up to five years.

There has been a decrease in teen DUI deaths and an increase in deaths resulting from texting and driving ­­ 2,700 and 3,000 respectively per year, according to the Cohen Children’s Medical Center 2013 report ­­ with no change in penalties. The laws governing texting while driving should correlate with DUI laws because driving while intoxicated slows reaction time and impairs judgment, whereas texting distracts drivers’ attention away from the road completely.Reaction time is non­existent when a driver’s attention is not ahead but instead focused on a phone screen. Focusing on a single task is difficult for most teenagers, and therefore the multi­task aspect of driving is quite daunting.

City, state and federal governments are delinquent in their service to all Americans with the sluggish rate at which new laws governing texting while driving are enacted. But tougher laws are not the only defense against distracted driving. Education is the first step toward preventing texting while driving. MADD’s campaign to prevent teen deaths focused not only on governmental intervention but on broad public education. MADD brought the results of DUIs out of the closet and shoved them in the face of the American public. There were numerous television commercials against driving while intoxicated, as well as graphic videos shown to all high school students before homecoming, prom, and graduation vividly displaying the carnage from DUI accidents.

Texting should garner the same attention as DUI. Laws and restrictions seem hollow and antiquated until the teenage driver that is killed is a loved one. Parents waiting up at night wondering about the whereabouts of their teen know fear and dread when the police or hospital call comes. The teen is either being transported to the hospital or, even worse, parents are asked to come to the county medical examiner’s office to identify their child. In an instant, the hope of a generation has been snuffed out. Mom’s little boy, the one with the Tonka truck and the skinned knees, is lying in the hospital in intensive care. The doctors gather around to explain the surgery necessary to try to save his life. It seems he was texting while driving home and crashed his truck into a tree.

The firemen did their best, but it took a long time to cut him out of the mangled cab. He broke both arms and legs, but the worst part is his crushed skull that caused swelling in his brain. Surgery was a success but he is in a coma. His mom and dad waited by his side for two weeks, hoping for the best, but it seemed he would never wake up. As the weeks progressed, summer’s Independence Day celebration neared, but his parents did not celebrate. While everyone else cheered as fireworks lit up the night sky, there were two parents crying in the hospital because their son had lost his battle for his independence.

How many more children have to die before action is taken on this distraction that kills thousands of them each year? The atrocity of these many deaths is that they could be easily prevented ­­ if only texting and driving were equal to drunk driving in the eyes of the law. If this action is taken the future can be saved. What is the better choice for the next generation? The lives of innocent children abruptly cut short by car accidents, or saving lives by educating drivers on the dangers of texting and driving?

Education is the first step toward preventing texting while driving. MADD’s campaign to prevent teen deaths focused not only on governmental intervention, but on broad public education. MADD brought the results of DUIs out of the closet and shoved them in the face of the American public. There were numerous television commercials against driving while intoxicated, as well as graphic videos shown to all high school students before homecoming, prom, and graduation vividly displaying the carnage from DUI accidents.

What is the better choice for the next generation? The lives of innocent children abruptly cut short by car accidents, or saving lives by educating drivers on the dangers of texting and driving?

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