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Meet our Texts=Wrecks finalists: Susan Li

By Beth Gibson on June 29, 2018

It’s time to wrap up this blog series introducing you to our six Texts=Wrecks scholarship finalists, because we need to choose our winner! Last but not least, meet 18-year-old Susan Li from Lincoln, California. She’s heading off to Harvey Mudd College in Claremont, California, to get a degree in Engineering in the fall. Here’s her thoughtful and proactive response to changing the way we think about and do driving as a culture.

Introduction:

Unfortunately, distracted driving in widespread in my life. I have sat in my friend’s car and seen her take out her phone to respond to a text or look up directions. Needless to say, sitting in a car in which the diver is not paying full attention is frightening. To resolve this issue without causing a fight, I offer to do whatever my friend wants to do. When I am holding the device, I feel much safer knowing my friend is concentrated on driving, not any other tasks. To add to that, I clearly tell her that I feel uncomfortable when she is on her smartphone and kindly ask her to refrain from doing so.

If I am in charge of the steering wheel, I stow away my phone in the glove compartment. I am no celebrity or extremely significant person; I know that notifications can wait. If the texts or calls never end, I will pull over to answer them. I make sure to tell all my friends my choices and how simple staying safe actually is. My being may not be capable of much, but I can at least tell everyone I love to not text and drive.

Short Essay:

On the freeway, your phone lights up, and a text message from your best friend pops up. It’s okay if you check it for a brief moment…right? This scenario is reenacted daily across the country, often at the expense of lives.

In 2016 alone, 3,450 people lost to their lives to distracted driving. In 2015, almost 400,000 were injured in accidents caused by distracted driving. If everyone kept their attention on the road and focused on driving, like they are supposed to, all of those accidents could have been prevented.

Distracted driving covers not only texting, but includes all activities that may interrupt the driver’s attention. There are three types of distractions: visual, manual, and cognitive. Visual involves looking away from the road, manual involves physically removing hands from the steering wheel, and cognitive involves mentally detaching the mind from focusing on the road. All of these actions have the potential to take a person’s life in a matter of seconds. Texting, however, is the most lethal. The one action combines the three types of distracted driving into one large death trap. For one to text, hands need to tap on the screen, eyes need to look at the phone, and thoughts need to focus on the text message. At that exact moment, the driver loses complete control of the vehicle at 55+ mph on the freeway, essentially sitting in a machine consisting of several tons of solid steel soaring uncontrollably.

The most dangerous consequence of texting and driving is not the driver endangering him or herself and passengers, but endangering every single person in the nearby vicinity. So, no. Checking that text for a few seconds is absolutely NOT okay. There is no benefit that can outweigh the consequence of a human life. That text can wait. That notification can wait. That steering wheel cannot wait. The temptation of responding to that text gnaws and claws at the back of your mind. If the text can’t wait, there is an easy option that eliminates the risk of possibly murdering someone: pulling over. By removing the moving vehicle from traffic, the automobile no longer poses any danger to others on the road.

There are multiple actions that can be taken prior to hitting the road. Most devices now can respond to any incoming messages with an automated “I’m driving right now! I will get back to you later.” There are also installable apps that can perform this action as well. This way, the text is responded to and the sender knows to contact you later.

The last piece of the puzzle, yet to be found, is how to raise public awareness to prevent texting and driving. Possibilities to stem texting and driving include: incorporate new information and questions on the written permit test, increase severity in consequences, run more PSAs (public service announcements) on television, teach workshops to students annually K-12, educate people to use driving mode, etc.

Although driving laws are ultimately at the state’s discretion, distracted driving like texting or calling should equate to a much heavier penalty. For states that operate on the 12-point scale, texting should equate to reckless driving and be worth 2 points with a monetary fine. Some will argue that “it’s just a phone call” or “that’s so unfair,” but those arguments are the core of the problem. Distracted driving, in the public eye, is a minor driving offense; when in reality, its actual ramifications equate to a major driving offense. The competence and efficiency of state legislatures has not yet caught up to the speed of progressing technology. Current laws are not stringent enough as the death toll continues to be in the thousands annually. The accessibility of smartphones has massively increased the amount of distracted drivers on the road daily, endangering millions nearby.

A well-rounded approach would encompass current drivers and to-be drivers. If future drivers can stop from the beginning, this issue will eventually wither to become a less widespread issue. Local law enforcement should hold assemblies and conduct workshops annually in schools, for all grade levels, to raise awareness and to educate the future drivers of America that texting while driving is irresponsible and deadly. Ideally, the federal government provides a block grant for all states to combat distracted driving and the states make up for the difference in programs such as workshops. If even a fraction of the students decide to let their phone be, many lives are saved. Education is the most effective way to raise awareness, and has proven so for issues like smoking and teenage pregnancies. Rates for both have plummeted with the implementation of programs in schools educating students the health risks of smoking and ways to prevent unwanted pregnancies. The future of America lies in the schools across America, so hopefully teaching them the dangers will curb this epidemic.

Texting while driving is an imminent adversity all drivers face daily. This distraction blinds the driver to be completely oblivious of the road ahead, and could hurt others in an instant. The least I can do as an individual is to stop any distracted driving in my control. No driver should be distracted, especially using a cell phone, in an active vehicle. Speaking up and asking the driver to put the phone down is being responsible, not a tattletale. In addition, I will write to my local and state representatives in Congress to bring awareness to this increasingly fatal issue. There is no panacea for this pandemic, but simple actions like pulling over to answer a text, turning on driving mode, or something as easy as ignoring the text are a step forward to combat distracted driving. Do the right thing. Don’t text and drive.

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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.