Abrahamson & Uiterwyk Announces Their July 2021 Distracted Driving Essay WinnerTrusted Content
Legally reviewed by:Erik Abrahamson, J.D. July 18, 2022
Ciara Lusnia is our 2021 distracted driving essay winner.
Here is the winning essay:
Winning Essay: Admit It To Quit It
Distracted driving delivers devastating data. I personally know three individuals whose lives have been changed due to a distracted driver, and that is only in the past calendar year! All injuries were to different degrees resulting from different distractions, but the bottom line is that there should be no excuse for anything of the sort; especially not with how advanced our technology is and how vocal society is about the dangers of distracted driving. Yet, it happens, and the results are unreservedly uncalled for. Something needs to change, and that change must happen now.
Distracted driving kills about 8 people a day. There is not any text in the world that would justify taking someone’s life. Of course, no one ever thinks it will be them – there is a significant invincibility almost innate in the human race. Between 80-90% of drivers believe they are “better-than-average”, and this statistic is clearly impossible. What may be the root to distracted driving is thinking we are capable when we are not; and just to be clear, none of us are actually capable. It can be theorized by a psychological term, “optimism bias” which dictates that we think we are above the rest and the negative consequences could never happen to us. What is interesting, is that the complete opposite self-position is taken each time someone plays the lottery or gambles – they believe the positive effect will be their result. The main take away is that there are psychological reasonings for why some continue to drive distracted, regardless of knowing they shouldn’t and understanding what they are risking, but that is not to say that with a change in the way safe driving is spread that things may be able to improve through society’s driving.
Having such close individuals to me having their lives affected by distracted driving has been a wakeup call I wish no one else to have to suffer through in order to change their distracted driving habits. My old personal excuse for having a phone within reaching distance was to access a map application as I am horrible at directions. I figured, this was acceptable as all Ubers, Lifts, and taxis have always had such a system. I copied what I saw. However, I have taken time to research the statistics of distracted driving and I have taken physical steps to eliminate my superiority-stance and admit that I am not more likely than anyone else to cause and accident. Now, when I am behind the wheel, I have completely removed my phone and place it in the middle console. Out of sight, out of mind – in theory. Although I am a visual learner and did enjoy the time when I had a map image guiding my path, I know each time I glanced at the screen for the next step was a second both my and other individual’s lives could have been changed forever. Now, with my phone in the middle console I utilize the audio version of maps and have been keen to improve my listening skills. I have a larger awareness for where I am and truly have noticed how much more I can react to.
I am proud to honestly say I practice what I preach. My phone is in my car’s middle console when I am behind the wheel, not to mention in silent mode whenever in the car to prevent second-handedly distracting the driver. I would encourage others to do the same, but clearly this notion doesn’t reap the highest rewards. However, I know that other members of society and myself can take it one step further and hold each other accountable through a second level – technology.
Technology has revolutionized much of society today – our bread is sliced, it can be toasted, people can go to space and 5G is coming. Why can’t we utilize this abundant and ever evolving realm of technology to combat distracted driving? What I envision is live tracking when driving (like Maps, Google Maps, Waze, etc.) with connection to the phone’s internal accelerometer or gyroscope as a mechanism to see if the phone has been picked up when driving. If the phone has been picked up, the application will blast your followers with a “Fail”. Psychologists have proven how powerful social pressure could be, and having your friends, colleagues, family and other in-app connections all be alerted that you failed in your focused driving pledge can be more powerful than perceived on paper.
What motivates people (perhaps more than we wish to admit)? Money! To take this distraction-free accountable driver app one step further, a system could be composed rewarding those abiding by their pledge. This financial incentive would come out of other member’s “self-betting” fee to biannually reward those participants who met the distraction-free benchmarks. It is a great financial punishment or reward system. If there is a gap between the collected fees and the amount of successfully distraction-free individuals, which I hope there would be, it would be worth writing a governmental grant to make up for this financial gap.
In summary, there is no excuse for distracted driving, especially not to the frequency it occurs today! I am proud to say I have made changes in my habits and am trying to get my friends and family to do the same. My friend’s two toes have literally been severed as a result of such a scenario! So, how can we change this human behavior? A technological app on everyone’s phones where a pledge to drive distraction-free is accompanied by social pressure with notifying your social network if you fail coupled with a financial punishment/reward system to further incentivize your hands on the wheel! This app could be the next sliced bread!