It Can Wait

“When you are issued a driver’s license, you are also issued a great deal of responsibilities” (Drivers Ed). On July 25, 2009, 19-year-old Eric Okerblom, a marathon cyclist, was struck while on his bike traveling on a road near his home in Santa Maria, California, according to businessinsider.com. The teen responsible for this accident was traveling in her truck at a speed of 60 miles per hour and did not swerve or brake before hitting and killing Eric. She was distracted, texting on her phone instead of watching the road.

According to the National Safety Council, 6 million accidents annually are the consequence of cellphone use while driving. But even with this statistic, 660,000 drivers, at any given moment in the United States, are driving while on their phones. Why, every day, do we continue to place ourselves and others in these fatal positions when we choose to pull out our phones, instead of putting them away? One reason may be due to laws governing driving.

Missouri is one of three states to have no full-texting-while-driving ban, according to Tom Dempsey with kshb.com. While Missouri’s teens may be prohibited from texting while driving, most adults are not. At this time, representatives and senators are working to get bills passed to ban texting for all drivers in Missouri. Wayne Wallingford, a Missouri state senator, is active in getting his Senate Bill 15 passed, banning texting while driving with a $50 fine for those who don’t comply and a $100 fine when in a work/school zone. Another to fight for a ban on texting while driving is Greg Razer, a Missouri representative with House Bill 211, similar to Wallingford’s. When speaking of texting while driving, Razer states, “We’re all guilty of it. It’s a habit we’ve all learned. We need to unlearn it.”

Another possible reason for the continuation of texting while driving may be due to the fact that many drivers are misguided by the illusion that they are “good” at texting while driving; but this assumption is similar to saying, “I am good at driving blind folded.” It just isn’t true, and it should never become our excuse for pulling out our phones and allowing ourselves to become distracted from the colossal responsibility we hold when we turn the keys and take the wheel. No circumstance should be so great to allow our eyes to leave the road, subjecting our lives and those of others to the lethal fate that texting while driving holds.

Like so many have said, “It can wait.” No text message is worth the risk of a death. Listen to the cries of those who have been caught up in a texting-while-driving situation and, because of it, have found their lives turned upside-down. Don’t place yourself in that same position. Join with me, today, by taking the pledge to drive distraction free. Go to itcanwait.com/pledge and become an advocate. As drivers, we are issued a great deal of responsibilities. Don’t let your next message be your last.

Abigail Chaney, 18 is a senior at Lighthouse Preparatory Academy in Jefferson City. Hers was the winning essay in the It Can Wait (distracted driving) Essay and Video Contest, sponsored by Missouri newspapers, the Missouri Press Association (MPA) and AT&T Missouri.

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