It never ceases to amaze me. I’m stopped at a red light behind several cars, in a hurry to get to school. The light turns green, but we stay still. The drivers in front of me lay on their horns, so I join in on the fun and give some intimidating honks from my mom’s minivan. I take any chance I can get to honk at people. I knew immediately that the driver at the head of the pack was distracted by something – whether it was a cell phone or their astonishing reflection in the rear view. It sounds obvious, but when I drive, I focus on driving. I’ve heard plenty of stories of parents losing teenage children because they decided to Snapchat and drive. No way will I put myself and others at risk. A recent incident really opened my eyes to the issue – or maybe it was the blinding high beams coming at me.
I was up late at the library with a ton of work to finish. After I left, I thought my night couldn’t possibly get worse. I walked to the crosswalk by my dorm and waited for the bright green pedestrian to pop up, signifying my right of way to cross the road. I thought nothing of the car facing me, waiting to turn left through the crosswalk. Even though it was the middle of the night, surely he’d see me with the aid of streetlights and his headlights (I’m not that small). That’s assuming he was looking at the road in the first place. The green pedestrian appeared and I stepped into the crosswalk. At the same moment the car shot toward me. I froze, and the driver hit the brakes, finally seeing what he should have been aware of all along. I peered through his window and saw the telltale glow, the cause of thousands of hospital visits, the bane of modern existence – his phone. His eyes were fixed on mine as he tried to pretend he hadn’t nearly run me down. I was face to face with one of my greatest pet peeves. My mother wouldn’t be proud of the words I flung at the driver, but I was flustered. I also employed various hand gestures to expressed my feelings, as other drivers looked at me like I was insane. I think I was justified; I was nearly hit by a car. This incident fueled my frustration with texting and driving. Of course, nobody is perfect, and I have also made the stupid decision to look at my phone while driving.
The morning was perfectly normal. My little sister and I got ready for school, dreading the day ahead of us. As usual, my mom called out, “Be careful driving!” as we rushed out the door. But I, the master driver, the expert on wheels, couldn’t possibly make a mistake on the road. Everything was rolling smoothly, until I made the stellar decision to pull out my phone to play some music. In between the split-second glances at my phone, I started to veer to the right side of the road. A loud thunk had both of my feet on the brakes in an instant, and the high-pitched shriek from my sister blew my ear drums. I looked in the rearview mirror, expecting to see some poor kid flailing on his back like an upside-down turtle. Thankfully, there was only a mailbox post with no mailbox. I exhaled a sigh of relief, called my parents, and drove to school (my mom reimbursed the family later). I got lucky. I could have been one of those people who never gets to drive again.
Texting and driving is completely avoidable and should not be done under any circumstances. There is no excuse! I have experienced enough to know that one glance can ruin lives. When you are driving, you don’t need to take a Facebook quiz or ask your friend what their favorite animal is or post a picture on Instagram. You need to focus on the task at hand and drive. Cell phones have become too much of a distraction, and texting and driving must stop.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.