Texting, driving

The AAA declared "Heads Up Driving Week," with a campaign that urged people to put down their phones Oct. 2-8, 2015, and then commit to distraction-free driving for good.

Recently, The Tribune-Democrat asked students in ninth through 12th grades to write opinion pieces pointing out the dangers of texting and driving. Here are the submissions.

Distracted driving

According to “Distracted Driving: Teens,” (www.distraction.gov/take-action/teens), teenagers are the leading cause of traffic crashes. Accidents are the leading cause of death among American teens; therefore, we must take a pledge and speak up.

The website www.cdc.gov/motorvehiclesafety/distracteddriving points out that, in the United States, more than nine individuals are killed and 1,153 people sustain injuries each day by distracted drivers.

Do you consider yourself a distracted driver? If so, what are you going to do about it?

A distracted driver is someone who is trying to multitask while driving. This is completely unacceptable and dangerous, not only for passengers but innocent bystanders.

Texting, talking on a cellphone, reading and replying puts everyone whom a distracted driver loves in danger.

Is it imperative that one responds to a text while driving? No.

Ask yourself: What do I value in life? Is it my wife/husband, children, mother, father, friends? I suggest you begin protecting your loved ones to the best of your ability.

In 2012, according to “Distracted Driving,” 3,328 individuals were killed in crashes involving a distracted driver.

An additional 421,000 people were injured in motor vehicle crashes involving a distracted driver. These accidents could have been prevented if the driver gave his/her undivided attention to the road.

Driving is a privilege; therefore, it’s based on one’s skills, followed by rules outlined by each state. Nowhere in a driver’s handbook will he or she find it OK to text, drink while driving, eat or send email.

Currently, I’m learning to drive. My parents have educated me on the importance of driving. They’ve shown me how easy it is to remove my hands from the steering wheel or take my eyes off the road.

This simple mistake can take the lives of others, causing heartache and pain.

I would find it difficult to live knowing I took someone else’s life because I was distracted while driving. As an inexperienced driver, I must concentrate on the road and leave the texting and talking for a later time.

We, as young people, have the right to be heard. We can inform others through social media about educating all ages to the severity of distracted driving.

We can help others who have lost loved ones from a distracted driver by giving support. One can start a support group online to connect with millions of individuals around the world who want to speak up and make a pledge to drive safely.

Distracted driving has become a serious problem.

Therefore, we must act now and save lives. Start by putting down your cellphones and food and give your undivided attention to the road.

Passengers must speak up.

They must not allow a driver to put their lives at risk.

Gerrell Simon

Greater Johnstown High School

Fatal diversion

Cellphones are great. Most teens own a smart phone, and they can be valuable links to get help in times of trouble. A 911 call can save a life.

Smart phones enable teens to complete homework and tasks while at sporting events or doctor appointments. Parents know where their teen is at all times. Missing persons can be located and deaths prevented.

However, a teen using a cellphone while driving can lead to disastrous or fatal results.

The Doors sang, “Keep your eyes on the road, your hands upon the wheel.”

As Pennsylvania NewsMedia Association President Teri Henning stated, “Across Pennsylvania and the country, distracted driving is an epidemic.”

Data show that 70 percent of drivers admitted to engaging in smart-phone activity while driving (The Tribune-Democrat, 2015.) Text messaging is banned in 45 states as of May 2015, with a mere $50 fine as the punishment. Do you think 50 bucks is going to inhibit a teenager? I think not.

In addition, speaking on a cellphone is still legal in most states and the police have to prove drivers are not texting or “using data” such as Facebook.

Think about the time that it takes to pick up a cellphone, find and push the buttons to respond to even a simple message. Even five to 15 seconds with eyes off the road can result in tragedy.

It is estimated that 200,000 crashes each year are linked to cellphones. Really? I think it may be many more, as drivers are not likely to admit they were using cellphones at the time of the accident.

Is it that important to take a selfie to show where you are at the moment? To discuss a drama story at school? To give the exact minute of arrival or even just chat about the day? I don’t think so.

Operating a 2,000-pound vehicle is a privilege and a great responsibility. Be a safe driver. Nothing is that important that “it can’t wait” a few minutes to find a safe place to pull over and address the issue.

Don’t give anyone the “Roadhouse Blues.”

Zane Goldstrohm

Greater Johnstown High School

It can wait

The text or call you may receive while driving is nowhere near as important as the life of loved ones or your very own. It can wait.

There are more than 200,000 vehicle crashes associated with distracted driving and more than 2.35 million injuries from road crashes each year just in the United States, with distraction as their keys.

Who knew a little device such as a cellphone could cause so much destruction?

A recent study by the Transport Research Laboratory shows that texting drivers are far more dangerous than intoxicated drivers. This is astonishing. To prove it, young drivers were recruited to perform a stimulation to see just how a person can be affected by reading or typing a simple word compared to drunken drivers and even drivers who are under the influence of an illegal drug.

This test showed that those who were reading or typing a text had a slower reaction by 35 percent, while a drunken drivers had only a 12 percent slower reaction time. Drivers who were under the influence of a drug, such as marijuana, showed a 21 percent slower reaction time – higher than drinking and driving, but still lower than texting while driving.

Do not put yourself in danger. Do not put others in danger. Take the “It Can Wait” pledge. You and 7 other million people can help make a change today.

Alyissa Miller

Greater Johnstown High School

Drop the phone

In today's world, almost everyone has a smartphone. In fact, 80 percent of drivers reported owning a smartphone.

Also, 40 percent of teen drivers admit to using social media while driving, which increases the numbers even more. 

We shouldn’t be doing these things. It is so dangerous to be on a cellphone while driving. At any second, you could be involved in a wreck. In fact, according to distraction.gov, “In 2013, 3,154 people were killed in motor vehicle crashes involv­ing distracted drivers. This represents a 6.7 percent decrease in the number of fatalities recorded in 2012. Unfortunately, approximately 424,000 people were injured, which is an increase from the 421,000 people who were injured in 2012.” 

These statistics show that you should never want to be distracted while driving. It is far too dangerous for anyone who is on the road.

If you wait until you get to where you’re going to reply to a text, or check social media, it could mean your life, and/or the lives of the people around you. 

When your phone rings, and you're driving, ask yourself, “Is my life worth it?” 

The next time you’re driving, remember that you should watch the road, not your phone. 

Brady Hess

Greater Johnstown High School

It can wait

Imagine you're a high school student who just got a driver's license. It's the weekend, and you're arguing with your parents. You get a text from your best friend asking you to come over. You grab the keys to your mom's car and walk out the door in a huff without saying goodbye. 

You get a text: "Where r u????"

You begin to answer: "B there soon, was stuck in tra ..." BAM!

Soon, your parents are speeding to the hospital. They rush into the trauma center. They get to the edge of your bed, and their world comes crashing down. You life has been taken because of something that really could have waited.

A quarter of teen drivers reportedly responded to text messages once or more when they were driving. Twenty percent of teens and 10 percent of parents admit that they have extended multimessage text conversations while driving (http://www.distraction.gov/).

Every time you pick up your cellphone while driving, there is a risk of serious injury or even death. So really, it can wait.

Responding to a text takes a minimum of five seconds. That is five seconds that your eyes are not focused on the road.

In those five short seconds, so many events could take place. Someone could be getting a diploma, two people could share their first kiss as a married couple, and you could be killed in a crash. Think about your future. That text is not worth your life. 

If your car is equipped with Bluetooth, you can set the device to send an automated text message to let callers know you are driving and that the message will be received when the car is parked.

Also, there is an app called SafeCell that, when enabled, responds to calls and texts with a message letting the other person know that you’re driving and can’t be reached. SafeCell also uses your handset’s built-in GPS to notify you of state and local laws regarding using your phone while driving (http://internet-safety.yoursphere.com).

Although these apps won't completely wipe out the distracted driving epidemic, it is a start to halting the problem. 

Remember, it can wait.

Cassidy Klein

Greater Johnstown High School

Help save lives

The “It Can Wait” pledge urges drivers to keep their eyes on the road and not on their cellphones.

Distracted driving has been around for quite some time. Data show that more than 200,000 vehicle crashes each year are linked to distracted driving. You would think more people would take that into consideration before picking up a cellphone.

Confucius said, “He who learns but does not think, is lost! He who thinks but does not learn is in great danger."

Most people don’t think before they pick up their phones while driving. They should think about past instances and learn from others' mistakes. 

Taking this pledge could save the lives of thousands of people. When you take your eyes off the road while driving, not only are you risking your life but the lives of those around you.

According to digitaltrends.com/mobile, 70 percent of drivers admit to engaging in smartphone activity while behind the wheel. This shows that more than half of Pennsylvania drivers are putting lives at risk everyday.

If people were to take this pledge, it would set an example for other drivers.

The pledge really does help drivers be more cautious. My mother practices safe driving all the time. For example, if she receives a text, she gives her phone to me, in the passenger seat, to reply for her. This could be a safe alternative for others as well.

I hope to follow in her footsteps of caution and urge others to do so, too. Just taking a simple pledge can help save lives.

DeAndre Malcolm

Greater Johnstown High School

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