2016 Scholarship Essay Winner, Brendan Allen

Writer: Brendan Allen Essay Subject: What law would you change or introduce to reduce car accidents? Today our nation is faced with a crisis that demands everyone’s awareness and attention. In a modern world filled with terrorism, wars, and life threatening diseases such as cancer, you may be surprised to hear that the number one killer of teens in America is distracted driving. According to a study done by the Cohen’s Children’s Medical Center, distracted driving kills 11 people per day. This is the same number of people killed per day as in the Vietnam War, according to the defense casualty analysis system. We have a great opportunity for our country to put in place the right legislation to solve this modern day crisis. Laws ensure that everyone can live out their own rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness in a protected and safe environment. When one person’s actions cause harm and put others at risk around them, regulations need to be established to prevent these actions as well as offer punishable consequences to discourage people from breaking these rules and causing injury. A vast majority of states have put laws in place to prevent the use of cellphones when driving. This is a first step, however the repercussions for breaking these laws is not nearly severe enough to deter the majority of these drivers from texting and driving. Quite simply, the best way to stop someone from breaking the law is to have a more severe consequence. Currently, in most states the only punishment for cell phone use while driving is a fine of $100 or less. The main exception would be Alaska, where the maximum penalty for cell phone use while driving is a $10,000 fine. While nobody likes to pay tickets, the reality is that $100 is a relatively small fee that would not make a major impact on most people’s lives or income. Compare this to the similar problem of driving while under the influence of alcohol. These offenders must pay fines, serve jail time, attend courses or meetings, and have their driver’s license suspended for a period of time. These strict punishments are the exact reason why many people do not drink and drive or find alternative ways to return home after a night of drinking. In my opinion people, especially teens, will continue to text and drive without fear of punishment or risk with the current laws in place. In a day and age when there are more deaths due to texting and driving than drunk driving among young people, the most influential impact lawmakers can work on to help solve this crisis is to pass stricter penalties for those caught texting and driving, especially for repeat offenders. While it may not be necessary to mirror the penalties of drunk driving exactly, there certainly can be changes made to help deter drivers from using their cellphones while driving. Higher fines would be the simplest way to help discourage people from distracted driving. I believe that a fine around $500 for first time offenders and fines around $1000 for second time offenders would be enough to discourage myself and many of my peers from ever considering texting and driving. Finally, if someone is caught for a third time texting and driving, they should have their license suspended for 90 days and have to pay a $2000 fine. When someone continually puts people’s lives in danger while driving, there is simply no place for them on the road. Driving is a privilege, not a right. I believe this is something that is often taken for granted by much of our country’s population as automobiles are so prevalent. The best way to emphasize this and ensure the safety of the people is to enforce harsher punishments for those who demonstrate they cannot be trusted on our roads. I am confident that it would shock much of our nation to learn that distracted driving takes as many lives per day as the Vietnam War did in its time. As a nation, hundreds of thousands of demonstrators packed our nation’s capital to protest the Vietnam war feeling that it was unjust to send our young people to war to die. Today we must share this same enthusiasm in spreading awareness of today’s number one killer of young people in our country, distracted driving. This is a preventable crisis that stricter laws can impact and influence the future safety of our young teens as well as adults. Just like those who protested against the Vietnam War, why would we not want to make these changes in order to save lives?