Robyn Faye Auslander
He didn’t deserve this. Why did it have to be him, the boy whose smile lit up the room? The boy who showed me what it was like to be loved (even if we were only in seventh grade)? My ex-boyfriend, Shayne Desroches, was tragically hit by a car on September 18th, 2013. He was riding his bicycle home from school, and a 16 year old, newly licensed, sped down Hayden Rowe Street looking at her phone, texting. It broke me, but it also broke my whole community. From that day forward I vowed to never text and drive, and now, having my license for two years, I still have never broken that promise. I know I never will.
Texting may be the most common form of distracted driving, but other forms of cell phone related activities also contribute to the issue. Some of these include checking social media, emailing, eating, and even talking on the phone. Nowadays Bluetooth has become a popular way to talk on the phone while driving, but even this has some risk. Any action that diverts thoughts and attention away from the road can lead to a dangerous situation. It is said that distracted driving is just as impaired as those who drink and drive.
In 2013, more than 3,000 people were killed due to distracted driving incidents, and 424,000 people were injured because of distracted driving. Although teens are assumed to be the main culprits, people aged from 18-29 are the biggest offenders. Second place goes to those aged 30-39, and then people aged 40-49. Surprisingly, 37% of teens admit to texting and driving, whereas 47% of adults admit to it. When comparing seven European countries with the United States, the United States is leading in the amount of drivers that use their phone while driving, with about 25% admitting to distracted driving fairly often.
Despite all of these facts, those that do drive with distraction do not know how severe the consequences actually can be. Most people believe that they will only receive a ticket and a fine. Some other punishments that come with distracted driving include criminal charges, jail time, loss of driving privileges, multiple car accidents, and death. Today, 47 states outlaw texting and driving. Most states do not have specific laws about distracted driving. Instead, they have general laws that define distracted driving as something that is not necessary to operate a vehicle or something that impairs the driver’s ability to drive safely. In the state I live in, Massachusetts, created a Safe Driving Law that became effective in September of 2010. The law prohibits “sending, typing or reading electronic messages to or from handheld devices while operating a motor vehicle. This includes use of the internet and text messaging. The law also bans all handheld electronic by junior operators while behind the wheel.”
A lot of people have continued to rally for laws against distracted driving. One of the most well known campaigns against texting and driving is AT&T’s “It Can Wait” campaign. It is important for schools to also make their students aware of the danger by hosting assemblies and even clubs. Some things to do as a passenger in a distracted driving situation is to request that the driver puts away their distraction or offer to text or email for them. As a parent, be a good role model; if children see their parents ignoring the road, the children will think that they can as well. For me, I put my phone on “Do Not Disturb” and keep my phone in my purse or backpack. I even have the safe driving setting that sends a message to those who try to contact me while I’m driving that alerts them that I am occupied. If I must answer a text in an emergency, I pull off the road to answer. I will continue to abstain from distracted driving, and I hope to promote it to those not informed in the future. I’m going to make Shayne proud.