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Driver Education Round 3 – It’s Personal

Name: Grace Cram
From: West Palm Beach, FL
Votes: 26

It’s Personal

The wisest driving advice I have ever heard is “drive like everyone else is an idiot.” These words from my instructor in driver’s education have continued to be applicable due to one common factor — distracted driving. It comes in many forms, mainly, technology, other people, and intoxication. I myself have been distracted by my phone, seen others distracted by their peers, and have family members who were killed by a drunk driver. Having lived in two different states, I have seen a wide variety of driving skills. I have brainstormed ideas on steps everyone can take to proactively drive better and I have my own personal driving resolutions.

I grew up and learned how to drive in Minnesota. Then I moved to Florida, where I am continually astounded by Florida’s driving system compared to up north. It seems as if nobody knows the actual rules of the road! In the county that I lived in in Minnesota, thirty classroom hours of driver’s education are required before the permit test. In the Florida county I moved to, there is a simple four hour drug and alcohol course before the test. In Minnesota, fifty supervised hours and three behind-the-wheel training sessions are prerequisites to testing for a driver’s license. In contrast, in Florida, only thirty hours are required and behind-the-wheel is optional. In Minnesota, the test occurs on either a closed course or on real roads. In Florida, the test takes place in a parking lot in most counties. I know of many kids my age who lied about their thirty practice driving hours. I have also heard of kids who could not pass the test in their own county so, in order to pass, they took it in Miami instead.

When it starts raining on the freeway, cars turn their hazard lights on even though they are not pulled over. It’s incredibly distracting and confusing. Zipper merge is not understood. Merging in general confuses drivers — they sit and wait for it to be clear instead of getting their speed up to merge over. I strongly believe that Florida exemplifies the tragic effects of not taking driver’s education seriously.

There are practical steps that everyone can take in their personal lives to reduce driving related deaths. First, everyone is responsible for paying attention in driver’s education. Even the best information can be wasted if taught to inattentive students. Second, it is extremely important that every teenager, college student, and adult ensures they never drive drunk. One night, my cousin and I were out to dinner with some friends that I am not very close to. One of them started telling a story about how he and some different friends got drunk one night. Apparently, he thought it was extremely entertaining watching his intoxicated friends drive to the gas station. I sat there, shell shocked by what I was hearing. My cousin and I grew angry and informed them that their story was actually extremely unhumorous. Our grandma and uncle were killed by a drunk driver before I was born. We have grown up seeing the sadness this has created in our family. I never want anyone to have to experience what my dad, aunts, uncles, and grandpa did firsthand. So to us, it is personal. I will never allow anyone to joke about driving drunk in my presence. Third, everyone must exercise discipline in regards to cell phone use. The temptation is always going to be present for modern society. It can be tremendously easy and feel like a minor offense, but we forget that the consequences can ruin our lives. Taking advantage of phone settings such as Apple’s “Do Not Disturb” button personally helps me. It mutes all notifications until told otherwise.

I have never personally been in a car accident worse than a fender bender, but I myself have been an irresponsible driver and have seen my friends acting irresponsibly. I have three major distracted driving habits involving my phone. The first and most distracting is music. I dislike listening to the same five songs on the radio, so I always stream music when I drive. While I am on the road, I’ll start scrolling to put more songs on queue, go to change the playlist, skip a song I am tired of, or look down to see the name of the song playing.

The second bad habit involves notifications. Whenever I receive a text message, especially from an immediate family member, I feel obligated to read it. Usually, it is a request to stop at the grocery store on my way home. This entreaty — which seems so important in the moment — is truly trivial when considering the fatal consequences.

The same goes for my third major distraction: phone calls. Talking on the phone while driving is so common that people forget it is illegal in some states. When I talk on the phone while driving, I simply follow the cars on the road and watch the stoplight color instead of being fully alert. One time, I actually turned left on red while on the phone with my mom. For some reason, I thought I could go. Thankfully, at that moment, all the other cars also had a red light so nothing happened. However . . . what if something had? With all of these almost-accidents, I should desire to take active precautions to prevent a tragedy from ever occurring.

To address my first weakness — music, I need to choose a good playlist before I start driving and let it play with no adjustments. It is as simple as that. To fix distracted texting, I should proactively anticipate my family’s questions. Then, I can turn on the “Do Not Disturb” option that Apple has and place it out of sight, eliminating the temptation of both texts and phone calls.

Driving is already dangerous enough without technology — why recklessly endanger ourselves even more than we already do by simply being on the road? As my family will attest, the effects of distracted driving are tragic and permanent. Making a plan to pre-queue my playlists, confer with my family about errands before driving, and place my phone out of sight will abolish these self-inflicted distractions. By making conscious changes with our phone habits, we can take control of the wheel back from all the “idiots.”