Texts=Wrecks Scholarship

Congratulations to our Scholarship Winners!

GibsonSingleton Virginia Injury Attorneys would like to congratulate all of our scholarship winners. We launched our Texts=Wrecks scholarship in 2018 to assist deserving college-bound students in paying for secondary educational expenses. We hope that by offering this money, we are helping not only one student, but an entire community that will reap the benefits of that student's drive for success.

GibsonSingleton Virginia Injury Attorneys would like to thank all who applied. Please check our blog and Facebook page for announcements and other scholarship opportunities.

2021 National Winning Entry

"My father was gone. My life has not been the same."

- Chandler P., 2021 Scholarship Winner

Short Essay

I would like to tell you how distracted driving has impacted my life. My world changed on July 11, 2017, and not for the good. I had just turned 14 the month before and I was a member of my high school cross country team. We had summer practices that lasted about 1 ½ hours. Because it was not a long practice, my dad would put his bike on the back of the car and would go for a ride during that time.

This was something my father did frequently, as he was an avid bicyclist. It was nothing for him to ride 100 miles in a day. He knew and followed all the rules of the road, wore a helmet and reflective clothing, and rode right against the white line on the road. He had been riding for 25 years. I even rode with him at times and really enjoyed the time that we had together. That all changed that day.

"Just a second could make a difference in staying in your lane or drifting off the side of the road."
- Chandler P.

It was a beautiful morning, no clouds were in the sky, the sun was on his back and there was little to no traffic. As he rode, a lady who was talking on her cell phone and speeding came upon him and hit him.

My father was gone. My life has not been the same. So many things were taken from me such as, starting high school a month later, sports, band, awards, graduation, acceptance to Clemson, and so many more. My brother gets married in December, and dad will not be there, all because someone chose to use a cell phone while driving.

"I do not want anyone to have to go through what I and my family have gone through."
- Chandler P.

This obstacle in life has given me more insight to the rules of the road and to the many other dangers that contribute to distracted driving. I have learned that distracted driving can be caused by more than my phone. Eating in the car, having more than 2 people in the car, playing my music loud, and changing my playlist or just using the knobs for the controls of the air conditioner or heater. Just a second could make a difference in staying in your lane or drifting off the side of the road.

I have been and will be an advocate to address and change the laws in the state of South Carolina about distracted driving. I never thought about this but while driving at 55 mph and sending or reading a 5 second text will allow you to drive the length of a football field. You are actually not even focused on the road for those 5 seconds; you are driving blind. I do not want anyone to have to go through what I and my family have gone through.

I have dealt with this tragedy by making all A's and B's in high school and I will graduate with a 3.73. I know my father wanted me to go to college, and he would be so proud that not only am I going to college, but I am going to my dream school – Clemson University. My father would be so proud of me. If I am in the car with someone who is using their phone I ask if I can text for them or I make sure that I am the one using my phone for direction. I ask them to please not text and drive. I use the do not disturb feature on my phone while I am driving. It sends a message that I am driving so I am not distracted with the ding of the notification. I also remind them of how quickly you can lose someone at the hands of someone else or even at their hand.

- Chandler P.


2021 Honorable Mention

"People fail to realize that alcoholism is an addiction which is usually caused by stressors, which is something most people cannot fix overnight or by themselves, and the toll it can take on a person and their family."

- Murphy D., 2021 Honorable Mention

Short Essay

In the United States alone, 15 million people are living with an alcohol-use disorder, although this does not take into account all the others affected by this dangerous intake of alcohol including friends, families, and any other relationships involving an alcoholic. People fail to realize that alcoholism is an addiction which is usually caused by stressors, which is something most people cannot fix overnight or by themselves, and the toll it can take on a person and their family. Even though society cannot combat and help every alcoholic individually, we can make people aware of preventatives of alcohol abuse and inform the toll that alcoholism can take on someone's life so we can help them make the right decisions in their life when it comes to their safety around alcohol and other substances.

"Since this moment in my life, I have started to try and help other people struggling with the same alcoholic and substance abuse tendencies as my father."
- Murphy D.

From a young age I grew up around substance abuse due to my father and grandfather being functioning alcoholics from as early as I can remember. As a child, I was conditioned to thinking nothing of my father going out to the garage to have his “alone time” and coming back into the house passing out on the couch night after night because it became my own normal. As years passed and I became older, I became aware of my father’s substance abuse, although I hated to pay attention to it because I didn't want to come to terms with that aspect of my father because the man that I always looked up to as a role model became someone that I did not want to grow up to be.

In the summer going into my freshman year of high school, my father picked me up from soccer practice where he noticeably smelled like alcohol, and I asked if he was able to drive where he followed by saying yes he was fine. As we turned onto the road, I noticed something was wrong as we had scraped the guard rail, and then I asked him to pull over where I for the first time had to take care of my dad as if I was an adult. This situation shaped me for better and worse and has had a genuine impact on who I am today.

"Being put through this difficult situation at such a young age has made me realize that alcoholism is an addiction, and the best way we can prevent it is to not drink at all."
- Murphy D.

Since this moment in my life, I have started to try and help other people struggling with the same alcoholic and substance abuse tendencies as my father. I now volunteer my time with my local substance abuse treatment center where I lead a group counseling session for children that’s parents or family members struggling with substance abuse. I try to help them realize that they had nothing to do with this change and try to give them advice on what they can do to help. Also, at my school I am part of a committee that sets up a no drinking and driving campaign around prom time called “Friends don’t let friends drive drunk.” During this campaign, our committee shares places to reach out if you need a safe ride home, and we also set up after prom activities to prevent students from partying that will hopefully prevent the likelihood of drinking and driving within our community.

Being put through this difficult situation at such a young age has made me realize that alcoholism is an addiction, and the best way we can prevent it is to not drink at all. Although a huge part of alcohol abuse is knowing how to handle yourself in situations where alcohol is involved like cases of drinking and driving because you can put yourself at risk along with others on the road. Knowing outlets and places to go if you are in need of a ride or you know people who do are key to combating against drinking and driving because more than 10,000 people a year are killed due to irresponsible drivers under the influence.

- Murphy D.


2020 National Winning Entry

"I am a firm believer that today’s decisions are tomorrow’s realities, and life today is a collection of choices made yesterday."

- Michael H., 2020 Scholarship Winner

Short Essay

Stephen R. Covey said, "I am not a product of my circumstances. I am a product of my decisions." I have found this to be true as I observe increasing of accidents and fatalities due to distracted driving and impaired driving. I am a firm believer that today’s decisions are tomorrows realities, and life today is a collection of choices made yesterday. I am making the choice to apply the knowledge, wisdom and best practices learned from driver education to be a responsible driver. Making good driving decisions starts first with understanding the problem. I learned that over 3,166 people are killed by distracted driving each year. This is 8.5% of the total National Highway Traffic fatalities each year. Over 25% of the distractions were related to use of a cell phone. There was also a total of 599 pedestrians and bicyclist killed by distracted drivers. Daily, there are 9 fatalities and more than 1000 injuries. I understand that behind the statistics are real families. This serves as a moral motivation for me to make good decisions as it relates to driving. In addition to moral motivation, I am also aware that there are over 7 million people in the U.S. who have suspended license from alcohol or driving related incidents. I choose to make good driving decisions as an adult because I understand that driving is a privilege, not a right and it can be taken away if abused. In order to make good decisions we must also live by our virtues and values. In 2018, I led a “It Can Wait” campaign at my school in hopes of impacting my community. With the support of my counselor and Boy Scout Troup, I was able to get 121 of my fellow students to take the pledge which reads: “I pledge to always drive distraction free. No exceptions. I pledge to never allow my phone to endanger myself or others behind the wheel. I pledge to be an advocate for the cause. To lead by example and spread the message. I pledge because I believe driving distraction free can save lives and make the world a better place.”

"I understand that behind the statistics are real families. This serves as a moral motivation for me to make good decisions as it relates to driving."
- Michael H.

I also shared with the group the three types of distracted driving; manual, when your hands are away from the wheel; visual, when your eyes are away from the road; cognitive when your mind wonders away from the task of driving, and how texting involves all three. In addition to knowing the statistics and championing the cause in my community, I have the benefit of the in-depth preparation required by the state of Georgia for new drivers, Joshua’s Law. The law was named after Joshua Brown, who died in an accident in 2003. Joshua’s parents joined with legislators in an effort to put stronger driver training laws into effect. The end result was The Teenage and Adult Driver Responsibility Act (TADRA), a law that requires teens get specific driving experience and instruction before obtaining licensing beyond the learner’s permit. The law also implemented a graduated driver licensing system, imposing time-of-day and passenger restrictions on drivers aged 16 and 17. Completing the requirements of Joshua’s Law helped me to learn the importance and huge responsibility of operating a vehicle. It also prepared me to make good decisions as it relates to transportation of passengers in my vehicle and my responsibility to them. I think it would be helpful if the federal government mandated such a law as a requirement in all states, since people often move and travel across state lines. In addition to competing the requirements for Joshua’s Law, I completed the Alcohol & Drug Awareness Program (ADAP) and earned the Traffic Safety Merit Badge on my path to becoming and Eagle Scout.

"Leadership by example is one of the most effective methods of convincing others to practice safe driving habits."
- Michael H.

In summary, the horrible statistics related to distracted driving continue to grow at an alarming rate. As phones become more engraved into people’s lives, the need to always look at it will be a temptation. To help manage this distraction and make good decisions as an adult I will do the following: (1) use the knowledge learned from Joshua’s Law and (ADAP). (2) remind myself of the rising accidents, injuries, fatalities, and broken families. (3) continue my work in the community through “It Can Wait” (4) keep the “Do not disturb while driving” feature on my phone activated. Passengers who ride with me have learned to respect my beliefs, and some have adopted my best practices to safe driving. Leadership by example is one of the most effective methods of convincing others to practice safe driving habits. I also keep in mind the moral and punitive motivations related to unsafe and distracted driving. Driving deaths impact families and license suspensions keep us from working to support those we love. These steps will help me to make good driving decisions as an adult.

- Michael H.


2019 National Winning Entry

"Human lives are too precious to become victims of ignorant and preventable decisions."

- Glynncarynn C., 2019 Scholarship Winner

Short Essay

Last summer, a night of fun with my friends turned into a horrible experience. My friend Marisa and I were coming home from a local restaurant when our laughs were interrupted by the sound of metal slamming into the back of Marisa’s car. The noise triggered the world around me to go still as I was petrified to turn around and the face the damage. Once we pulled off, I was shocked to recognize the other driver. She sat in the back of my Spanish class, and she was still holding her cell phone. The finality of life was impressed upon me as a result of this experience. Human lives are too precious to become victims of ignorant and preventable decisions. While we had adhered to safe driving rules, Marisa and I were still involved in an accident. I realized that it was not enough to take responsibility for just myself - I have to do my part to ensure that others are making smart decisions.

"Something has to be done to show our young people that their decisions can change lives quicker than it takes to send a text message."
- Gillian P.

After some research, I came to realize what a problem drunk and distracted driving is in our society. I saw alarming statistics, like the fact that every day approximately 660,000 drivers attempt to use their cell phones while driving and twenty-eight people die as a result of drunk driving crashes. While learning about these statistics, I kept thinking back to the girl in my Spanish class and what made her think that behavior was okay. Whether it was modeling, youthful ignorance, or a lack of care, something has to be done to show our young people that their decisions can change lives quicker than it takes to send a text message.

Personally, I made a commitment to myself that especially as a college student I would ensure my safety no matter the situation. The almost inevitable dangers of alcohol and other distractions on campuses have destroyed lives. I believe that behind one’s decision to drive under the influence are excuses. It is human nature to convince ourselves of the option that will be most convenient at the time. So many young people will excuse distracted driving in an attempt to get home faster. We think to ourselves “it is just one time,” “they are not drunk,” or “I am sure we will be fine.” I am fully prepared to one day have these thoughts come to mind; however, the second they do, I know the sound of that summer night will come haunting back. If cornered in a hazardous situation, like a friend wanting to drive under the influence, I will take control of the situation and not allow substances to make decisions for myself or others. It is actions (like taking keys and cell phones) and words that bring the situation back to reality and save lives. However, it is not enough to just take responsibility for myself. I must ensure that those around me are not putting themselves or others in harm's way.

"If we are to ever correct this problem, our society must vow to do everything possible to ensure those getting behind the wheel are in full control. It starts with individuals taking responsibility for not only themselves but those around them."
- Glynncarynn C.

I have found it very necessary to start conversations with those close to me about this epidemic. We could all agree to take the actions that are pertinent to keep ourselves safe, but we were left scratching our heads on how to help others. I believe that it is more important to stand against an instigator and to use your voice to advocate for the right way. Many who are careless will ignore the opinions of others and proceed. Extremely tense situations involving distractions and vehicles desperately need a calm and guiding presence. I encourage myself and those around me to fill that role before tragedy strikes. Explaining the consequences and the options to avoid them are key points to hit upon. The instigator must understand that this is not a situation to be taken lightly.

Awareness of the overall problem and self-awareness of one’s own possible contribution to the problem are what is needed. On a wider scale, I believe we should devote more resources to bring attention to this epidemic. We have attempted awareness through schools, advertising, and such organizations as Mothers Against Drunk Driving; however, this awareness needs to increase. Personally, while I knew to not drive distracted, I had never learned of the alarming statistics until I sought them out. Outreach programs at high schools and on college campuses would allow for key demographics to hear pertinent information. We need to be investing our time and energy in educating young people on the impacts of distracted driving before it is too late.

Drunk and distracted driving has made a huge impact on my generation. Too many lives have been taken and ruined. If we are to ever correct this problem, our society must vow to do everything possible to ensure those getting behind the wheel are in full control. It starts with individuals taking responsibility for not only themselves but those around them. Outreach programs have the potential to change hearts and minds across our communities. I hope that these avenues can create a society free from victims of drunk and distracted driving.

- Glynncarynn C.


2018 National Winning Entry

"For the past three years, I have been speaking to local driving classes about how distracted and drunk driving is a hazard to everyone's health."

- Gillian P., 2018 Scholarship Winner

Introduction

"We have one life to live, so whenever I am in the car with someone, I let them know that their decisions behind the wheel of a car affect everyone they meet on the road, so they should make wise choices."
- Gillian P.

Before I ever learned to drive, I learned the finality of how the actions of a person getting behind the wheel of a car can forever change other people's lives. With the death of my first cousin, who was killed by a drunk driver, I personally felt the impact of that effect, and it forever propelled me into a mindset that not only would I never drive distracted or drunk, but I would do what I could to prevent others from doing that as well. As a result, I have written a book, “Safety in a Car Will Help You So Far!” to educate both adults and children about the hazards of distracted and drunk driving.

We have one life to live, so whenever I am in the car with someone, I let them know that their decisions behind the wheel of a car affect everyone they meet on the road, so they should make wise choices. As explained in the following essay, I also developed a social media revolution called #DriveWise that gives tips and information about the hazards of drunk and distracted driving. I now have hundreds of followers who learn about making wise decisions.

Short Essay

Statistics show that two in three people will be affected by drunk driving in a lifetime; I have had three drunk driving crashes directly my life, the last of which forever changed my life.

On November 26, 2006, I was eight years old and was asleep in the backseat of my mom's car when a shocking impact occurred and the screeching sound of metal jarred me awake. Gasping, a sharp pain and a car filling with smoke were my reality. I cried out for help. Help did come, eventually, but this was my reality, all caused by the actions of a drunk driver.

Two years later, my family's lives were again affected by a teenage drunk driver who had been to a party drinking, had illegally purchased alcohol and was fleeing the cops when he lost control of his car. He ended up slamming into the side of my family's rental house in the middle of the night. Luckily, the tenants escaped unharmed, but the teenage boy lost his life and the house took more than four months to fix.

"For the past three years, I have been speaking to local driving classes about how distracted and drunk driving is a hazard to everyone's health and ask them to sign to sign a pledge card promising to never drink and drive. As a result, hundreds of students have made that pledge."
- Gillian P.

The final event, and the one that prompted me to take action against drunk driving, occurred on July 13, 2011, when my 22-year-old first cousin, Tiffany Herman, was doing what she did best – helping someone. She was helping our Aunt Cindy, who was having marital issues. The day started out with them having lunch with friends, and then they were going to go back to Cindy's house for her to get some clothes. Cindy's spouse, Jim, was on a drinking binge and had promised his father he would go to rehab, but when his father went to pick him up, Jim actually refused to go. Jim's father tried calling Cindy to warn her, but the message went to voicemail. After lunch with friends, both Cindy and Tiffany went back to the house to get some clothes and were surprised when Jim showed up with a knife and a gun. Somehow they escaped in Cindy's SUV, only to be chased by Jim in a truck. He rammed the back passenger side of their vehicle, causing them to crash into a tree. Tiffany was killed instantly, and Cindy was hospitalized for 10 days with a fractured vertebrae, broken arm and a brain bleed.

My grandfather, Cindy's dad, has been a pastor for more than 50 years, so I can't say it shook my faith. We all knew Tiffany was in heaven, but nonetheless, it was a devastating loss. Tiffany was the bright light in our family and suddenly she was gone. Not only did I have to cope with her loss, but I had to face the fact that the person who killed her was someone I, as well as the rest of my family, had grown to love. To this day, I still go through a gamut of emotions when thinking about these events. It was and still is hard for me to wrap my mind around it.

I no longer wanted to be seen as a victim, and I didn't want Tiffany's death to be in vain. She was always helping people, so I took a stand. At age 13, I partnered with Mothers Against Drunk Drivers and began speaking to Victims Impact Panels about my experiences, in hope that I could make a difference. Speaking at these VIPs has always been a challenge for me because the audience is filled with people who have been arrested because of DUIs and substance abuse or other driving violations. Having been a victim of a drunk driver and still reeling from the loss of Tiffany, it was extremely difficult to stand before an audience filled with drunk drivers and not be angry. However, I did it, and still do it, in hopes that these listeners will learn from their mistakes and choose to make better decisions. I tell them that “Smart people learn from their own mistakes, but wise people learn from others.” I always tell them that I hope they will be wise. The next year, I began serving on MADD's Georgia's Teen Influencer group, serving two years as a role model who searched for positive ways to influence teens.

"I have learned the joys of serving my community and putting others' needs above my own in hopes that even if I just reach one person, perhaps I can save a life, and I can make a difference."
- Gillian P.

More recently, I partnered with local law enforcement and the Georgia Department of Transportation's “Drive Alert. Arrive Alive” program to spread awareness of the hazards of distracted and drunk driving. As the Middle Georgia Teen representative for MADD, I advocated at the state legislature for stricter drunk driving laws and ignition interlock systems for first-time offenders. For the past three years, I have been speaking to local driving classes about how distracted and drunk driving is a hazard to everyone's health and ask them to sign to sign a pledge card promising to never drink and drive. As a result, hundreds of students have made that pledge. As a reminder of their pledge, I give out black and white bracelets that I designed and purchased with the motto, “Be Accountable, If You Drink, Don't Drive” engraved upon it. They serve as a reminder that the choice to drink and drive is a black-and-white decision.

Realizing that my generation is very social-media savvy, I also developed social media accounts for #DriveWise with Facebook that educate the public about distracted and drunk driving, and I give out business cards listing these accounts as well as a toll-free number for free tows for drunk drivers.

The fact that an intoxicated driver has driven drunk 80 times before their first arrest is something that still terrifies me to this day. Especially when driving at night, I wonder how many drunk drivers I may meet on the road. However, I am no longer a victim of a drunk driver. I have learned the joys of serving my community and putting others' needs above my own in hopes that even if I just reach one person, perhaps I can save a life, and I can make a difference.

- Gillian P.