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Meet our Texts=Wrecks finalists: Mckennah Palmer

By Beth Gibson on June 29, 2018

Our next scholarship finalist is 18-year-old Mckennah Palmer from Eagle Mountain, Utah. She’s our first Western finalist, and we’re proud to welcome her! Mckennah will be pursuing a Computer Science degree at Brigham Young University, Idaho, in the fall. Here’s her strong and intelligent argument for never driving distracted.

Introduction:

Whenever I think of reaching for a phone, a bottle of water, or even the radio station, I replay in my head the most gruesome car accident video that they play in the Driver Education program at Westlake High School. “Blood on the Asphalt,” the video where nobody arrives alive, usually gets my heart rate up and my blood pumping. I imagine some awful punishment for the distraction, reminding myself to keep my eyes on the road. I find best results with keeping my phone in my bag where I can’t reach it.

Of course, it’s always hard to point out to a friend that they shouldn’t text and drive, but when my friend starts to use her smartphone and drive, I can start out by saying, “Hey, do you know about this cool new app?” She can turn on Apple’s “do not disturb while driving” or Samsung’s “in-traffic reply” so that anyone texting will know that she is on the road. Friends will know that she is not being rude by not responding (*gasp*) immediately.

Short Essay: 5 seconds would have prevented Aaron from getting hit.

Aaron is fighting for his life after he was hit by an SUV in Eagle Mountain while riding his bicycle. His friend was crossing the Pony Express Parkway first, but when Aaron followed, he was hit. Those driving by stopped to help, immediately performing first aid. Five days after the accident, he is still in a medically induced coma in the ICU at Primary Children’s Hospital. I can remember where I was when it happened. I was at a younger sibling’s soccer game when I heard a helicopter fly overhead. Everyone in Utah knows that the red-and-white helicopter is LifeFlight. His family immediately received a phone call with the news and were terrified to hear the same helicopter, realizing it was carrying Aaron. The family says that they are grateful for the hospital staff and the people who stopped to help Aaron after he was hit.

Eleven teens die every day as a result of texting while driving, according to the Department of Motor Vehicles. When you’re distracted in a texting conversation, it’s easy to forget you’re sharing the road with other people. In just the five seconds it takes to send or read a short text message, you’ve already zoomed past the length of a football field (traveling at 55 mph) with minimal attention on the road ahead. With the rise of smartphones and social media, more and more people, especially Millennials, prefer to communicate via text. But did you know the penalties for texting and driving are every bit as serious as driving under the influence? Hefty fines. License suspension. Prison time.

Did you know that playing with the radio, adjusting your GPS, or taking a sip of water can cause distracted driving? That’s right, water can be as deadly as alcohol. That is, if you’re drinking while driving. Just taking that sip of water could mean letting go of the wheel, tilting your head back, or unscrewing a bottle cap. These are all distractions. Distracted driving is not just limited to texting or talking on the phone.

What can we do to prevent distracted driving? Consider taking these steps to change habits:

• Pause or end text conversations before entering the car.
• Never eat food while driving.
• Communicate with passengers the importance of you staying focused.
• If a passenger, remain quiet and allow the driver to focus.
• Keep pets in the backseat when possible.
• Never do makeup or hair while driving.
• Keep your focus on the road ahead.
• Do not change the radio while driving.
• Keep both hands on the wheel while driving in automatic, or whenever not shifting gears if driving a manual.

These tips are helpful, but Aline Holzwarth’s article “The Real Reason You Shouldn’t Text While Driving,” states most crashes are caused by people who think they can pay attention to the road and do something else at the same time. It could be anything. And many of us are guilty of this overconfidence. So while it is important to not text and drive, there are some other situations that are just as distracting that make you think about driving in a whole new perspective.

Cognitive psychologist George Miller found that people can hold about seven chunks of information in their minds at one time. This is called working memory and is the equivalent of thinking about seven different strings of thought in our mind at any one time. Some of us can only operate at three to five chunks. Engaging in a conversation, whether the driver is using a hands-free or hand-held phone, draws the driver’s attention away from the visual scene, even without any actual visual impairment. So, I could be driving down the road with both hands on the wheel, looking straight ahead, talking to someone in the passenger seat, but not really perceiving it as well because my friend is talking about chalupas at Taco Bell. This triggers the thought that I am hungry. I start thinking about chalupas. Then maybe I start thinking about my bank account. Then my friend asks me a question about a boy at school and already I am at the threshold of my working memory.

Talking or texting on the phone while driving is worse. Aline has found that research shows that when people are texting on the phone, crash risk quadruples. Drivers who are on a call are about equally at risk as someone driving at the legal limit of blood alcohol content. In simulated driving experiments, drivers on phones got into more accidents than the drunk drivers. So, texting on the phone is worse than driving under the influence.

I have only been driving for a year, traveling that same Pony Express Parkway every day to get to Westlake High School, the same school that Aaron should be attending. I’ve seen people text and drive on that road. I can’t touch my phone when driving, because I always keep it out of reach. I almost wish I had been driving by that day, because Aaron’s chances would have had a different outcome with me paying attention behind the wheel. Your life is more valuable than any text message or snapchat. It is every driver’s responsibility to always be careful and attentive, realizing that driving is a privilege. Would you want your family member on the road with someone else so oblivious to the traffic around them? Keep yourself and your friends safe by avoiding distracted driving and by honoring the rules of the road.

Everyone deserves five seconds.

Works Cited:
Texting and Driving, DMV.org, Web.
“The Real Reason You Shouldn’t Text While Driving.” Aline Holzwarth. Behavioral Scientist.com. Web. 3 April 2018.

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Prevention, empathy, and diligence are hallmarks of everything we do at GibsonSingleton Virginia Injury Attorneys. Our community can see these ideals lived out in our work to prevent personal injuries from happening.

  • Safety Education
    GibsonSingleton launches a “Texts=Wrecks” campaign to reduce the number of people injured or killed by distracted drivers.
  • Annual Coat Drive
    During the fall, our team works to distribute coats to people in need in our community.
  • Hands-on Service
    John and Ken join the Gloucester Point Rotary Club in cleaning up the community.
  • Supporting Local Schools
    The Gibson family participates in Gloucester’s Botetourt Elementary Shuffle fundraiser.