Decisions This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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      What if a commercial airplane crashed not once a month but every day, seven days a week, year in and year out? What if the outbreak of a flu virus resulted in the death of more than 9,000 people under the age of 21? In reality, every hour, more than 400 people are taken to hospitals for serious injuries caused by motor vehicle accidents, and every day, 115 of them do not return home. According to the Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 42,000 Americans die every year and another 3.4 million suffer serious injuries, making driving the number one cause of death and injury for people ages 5 to 27. Over 41% of cars on the highway are traveling over 70 m.p.h. so it’s not surprising that highway crashes account for 94 percent of all transportation fatalities and 99 percent of all transportation injuries (safecarguide.com). These statistics have remained constant for the last five years because of drunk driving, speeding, aggressive driving, inexperience, and indifference to traffic laws.

While most of us are good drivers, we still face big decisions every time we get into a car as a driver or a passenger. A while ago my friend Courtney invited me to a basketball game with some of our friends. Since I had plans, I didn’t go. Later that night, I received a call that they had been in a terrible accident. The driver was the only one wearing a seat belt, and Courtney was in very critical condition. There were eight teenagers in the five-passenger car, and three died. The driver was speeding through a 35 m.p.h. zone when she lost control on a curve. The car spun around and slid sideways into oncoming traffic. A mini-van with a woman and two children hit them and side-swiped another car. They flipped and landed partially on top of the van. Luckily the occupants of the van and other car suffered minor injuries.

I went to visit Courtney in the hospital. She had a shattered pelvis, compact fractures in her right arm, a broken leg, extensive nerve damage, and while in the hospital, experienced a stroke-like seizure that paralyzed her left hand and arm. After months of physical therapy, living in a wheelchair, and finishing school in the hospital, she is finally able to walk and is attending college this year.

I could have been there that night. Would I have gotten in the crowded car? Would I have thought, Well, it’s not too far, I’m sure it will be fine to squish in. I’m sure that’s what they all thought.

Every day, I’m faced with a decision to be a responsible and cautious driver. I do my best to obey driving rules and limits. A teacher once told me to “Knuckle up and buckle up, because you’re carrying precious cargo - you!” I think that is smart advice. So here’s some advice straight from me to you: wear your seat belt every time you’re in a car, no matter what the distance. Avoid speeding, and make smart choices because you never know, it might save your life.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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