Scholarship Finalist Claudia M

Distracted driving causes thousands of accidents each year. At the Law Office of Neil Burns we see firsthand the personal injuries that these motor vehicle collisions cause. Not only are the victims of the accidents but the family and members of the community are affected as well. Car accident lawyers nationwide are trying to raise awareness of these types of accidents. We hope by offering this scholarship we will raise awareness to the dangers of distracted driving.

We asked our applicants the following:

A. “Distracted Driving and Me.” A personal story about either yourself or a close family member that was affected by distracted driving.

B. “Distracted Driver Awareness Campaign.” A personal story about an awareness campaign you have personally organized or administrated.

C. “Why You Shouldn’t Text and Drive.” An article appealing to young drivers that conveys the message that distracted driving is dangerous.

The essay below is from one of our five finalists.


MilhanoWhy You Shouldn’t Text And Drive

Did you know that simply put, driving a motor vehicle is the most dangerous activity most of us aged 16 and older engage in each day? In the year of 2013, a total of 3,154 people were killed and 424,000 people were injured in motor vehicle crashes ( For teens especially, vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). Sadly, 6 teens die everyday from motor vehicle crashes (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). In 2013, 2,163 teens in the U.S. from ages 16 to 19 were killed in motor vehicle accidents. Also in the same year, a shocking number of 43,243 teens from ages 16 to 19 were treated in emergency departments for injuries suffered in motor vehicle crashes (Center for Disease Control and Prevention). For the 16 to 19 age group the risk of motor vehicle crashes is significantly higher compared to any other age group (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). So knowing this, why would you risk your life for something that can wait?

What you might not know is that “texting while driving” is just one form of “distracted driving”. Yet, texting is the worst form of “distracted driving” because it involves all three types of distractions at one time. This is an important concept because “distraction” was identified as a factor in nearly 6 out of 10 moderate to severe motor vehicle accidents involving teens (AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety). Moreover, it was found that driving while distracted is the equivalent of driving with a blood alcohol level of 0.08 (Virginia Tech Transportation Institute). The three types of distractions are visual, manual and cognitive (Centers for Disease Control and

Prevention). A visual distraction can be simply starting at something other than the road and where you are going. A manual distraction involves taking your hands off the wheel and could be something such as playing with your phone or writing a text message. A cognitive distraction is defined as “taking your mind off driving” (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) and can involve a hands-free device or activity. For example, if you are looking at the road but a part of your mind is focusing on a conversation you are having with someone who is sitting on the passenger seat that qualifies as a cognitive distraction, because your brain is not fully focused on the road. Therefore, texting while driving qualifies as a visual distraction (as you are having to look at the phone screen), a manual distraction (as you are having to touch keys or a screen) and a cognitive distraction (as your brain focuses on the text conversation you are having). It is also important to keep in mind that it was found that the most common forms of distraction leading up to a motor vehicle crash involving a teen driver were first – interacting with one or more passengers and second – cellphone use (AAA Foundation For Traffic Safety).

Despite the danger of distracted driving, most of you have probably at some point engaged in its most popular form: texting while driving. In fact, to be more specific, “Nearly 50% of all US high school students 16 years old and older text or email while driving (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). Yet, some may not know that texting while driving is such a dangerous activity and cognitive distraction that researchers found that driving while using a cellphone reduced the amount of brain activity associated with driving by a shocking 37% (Carnegie Melon University). Reaction times are also affected, as drivers between the ages of 17 and 24 were shown to have slower reaction times while texting and driving than those who were “legally drunk or under the influence of marijuana” (Transport Research Laboratory). Even more shocking, a 20 year old driver who is texting has the reaction of a 70 year old (Human Factors, Winter 2004). In terms of accidents, it was found that a texting driver is 23 times more likely to be involved in a motor vehicle accident than a driver who is not texting (Virginia Tech Institute of Transportation). You might claim that as long as it is a short and fast text it is okay, but even though the average texting episode takes your eyes off the road for just 5 seconds, when you are driving at 44 mph, that’s the “equivalent of driving the length of a football field while blindfolded” (Virginia Tech Institute of Transportation).

Are these statistics not good enough to convince you? We always like to think that we are invincible and nothing will happen to us. Yet, what about thinking instead – is it really worth risking your life over that text? To put this into perspective, there are a few examples worth thinking about. Ann Sanford was a 32 year old woman from North Carolina who ironically, posted on Facebook “The happy song makes me HAPPY”. A minute after, she was dead from a fatal car crash. In 2012, rapper Ervin McInnes from California tweeted “Drunk…going 120 drifting corners YOLO”. A few seconds after, the driver in his vehicle ran a red light and five passengers in the car were killed. Another shocking example is from 2012, when Chance Bothe from Texas was driving and texted “I need to quit texting, because I could die in a car accident”. Although Chance did not die, moments after he drove off a cliff and had several serious traumatic injuries. Another shocking example is eighteen year old Taylor Sauer who (according to police reports) had been posting on Facebook constantly during her drive. She wrote “Driving and facebooking is not safe haha”. Just a few seconds after, she rear-ended a truck at 80 miles per hour and died (Goad, from Thought Catalog). One particular teen – Alexander Heit – gained popularity on the news from his text just moments before his death. His friend had texted him “Hey man I had to run for like an hour”. Heit tried to text him back saying “Sounds good my man, seeya soon, ill tw”. The text was not sent and was found unfinished in his phone, as he drove onto oncoming traffic and rolled his car off the road. Heit’s parents decided to release the photo of his unfinished text on his phone to remind and make young drivers aware of the dangers of texting while driving (Evans from Mirror UK). Were these texts really that urgent? Could they not have waited? Were they worth a life? These are questions you have to ponder before you decide to grab your phone to text while driving. We live in a society where multi-tasking is part of our lives, but driving is an activity that requires our full attention at all times.

The goods news is that all of this is preventable. It begins with an awareness of the dangers and a commitment to eliminate unsafe behavior. It is important to be aware of the massive dangers of engaging in texting while driving or any other distracting behavior. By making the personal commitment to drive “phone-free”, never texting or talking on the phone while driving, being a good passenger and speaking out if the driver in the car is distracted and encouraging your friends and family to follow by your example, you put your safety as the first priority and can avoid becoming one of these tragic and shocking statistics.


Works Cited:

Britt, Robert. “Drivers On Cell Phones Kill Thousands, Snarl Traffic”. Live Science, 1 February 2005.

Arce, Nicole. “Texting is More Dangerous Than Drugs and Alcohol While Driving: Study”. Tech Times, 9 June.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Distracted Driving”. CDC, n.d.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Teen Drivers: Get The Facts”. CDC, n.d.

Carnegie Mellon University. “Cell Phone Study Sparks Action”. Carnegie Mellon University, n.d.

Shapiro, Amanda. “New Hands-Free Technologies Pose Hidden Dangers for Driver”. AAA Foundation For Traffic Safety.

Distraction.Gov. “Facts and Sheets” Distraction. Gov, n.d.

Jim Goad. “10 Grimly Ironic Texting-While-Driving Car Crashes”. Thought Catalog, 10 June 2014.

Evans, Natalie. “Haunting Unfinished Text Message of Driver, 22, Killed In Crash Before He Could Send It”. Mirror UK, 11 April 2013.