This Fall, we received an incredible amount of high quality essays for our Fall Scholarship program. As always, we love to share some of the great work Florida students are capable of producing with you! The first place winner of this semester’s scholarship award was Kenzie Luckett. The following essay was written by her for the Fall 2019 Scholarship hosted by the Brooks Law Group.

Kenzie’s Background and Video

My name is Kenzie Luckett and I attend Deland High School. Currently, I am a dual-enrolled senior with a 4.67 weighted GPA (4.0 unweighted) and will receive my A.A. in psychology as well as my high school diploma in May 2020. I plan on attending the University of Florida to finish my undergraduate degree and will later apply to their law school to obtain my JD. Other than schoolwork, I spend most of my time playing volleyball for OTVA, a club in Orlando. I also teach Sunday school at my church First Presbyterian often.

Kenzie’s Essay

According to a survey designed by AT&T Inc., more than 73 percent of people who own a cellphone and are aware of the dangers admitted to texting while driving (“Why so Many People Text and Drive Knowing the Dangers”). It is acknowledged that texting and driving has severe consequences and is now illegal, however, the rates for distracted driving have increased. This can be blamed on society’s addiction to social media and texting as well as the invincibility theory among teenagers.

Neurologists have found that texting uses the same neural circuitry used by slot machines or cocaine, which makes it hard to resist sending back a text message to your friend while behind the wheel. Since most teens and adults are addicted to using their cellular device, they experience withdrawals when they aren’t able to access their phone, which leads to checking their email or responding to text messages to offset their anxiety. As stated in a Daily News article by Meena Hart Duerson, “84 percent of people surveyed in a new TIME Mobility Poll said they couldn’t go a single day without their mobile device in hand” (Duerson). With the amount of people dependent on their cell phones increasing, the amount of accident risk has also escalated. When someone is addicted to an illegal substance, simply knowing the law doesn’t stop them from using the drug. The same is happening with texting in driving. Even though it is banned; people addicted to their smartphone will most likely break the law to send a text message.

Teenagers are most likely to text and drive because they feel as if they will never face the consequences. They believe that if they engage in texting and driving, nothing truly bad will ever happen to them. This could be caused by an underdeveloped frontal lobe. The frontal lobe controls the process of neural myelination, which allows you to anticipate the repercussions of your actions. Since the myelination is not fully matured until around the age of 25, young adults can make the wrong choice. Even though most teens know the laws in place that prohibit texting while driving, the idea that they are “immortal” could play a role in why there has been an increase of distracted driving.

Florida’s new law making texting and driving a primary offense is not effective and has many loopholes citizens can jump through to get out of fines.  Police must provide evidence that the alleged person was texting. Officers are also required to inform the offender that they have the right to decline a search due to the Fourth Amendment, which prohibits search and seizure without probable cause. If the person pulled over refuses a search, then the law cannot be carried out and limits the power of the texting and driving ban.

If I was in charge of reducing the problem of texting and driving, I would first focus on aspects other than tougher regulations. There isn’t much more legislators can do to prohibit texting while driving because it would violate privacy rights alluded in the Constitution. Brooks Law Group shares a story of a young women, Heather Hurd, who was killed due to a semi-truck driver texting and driving. After this tragic event, her family began advocating to ban texting and driving and became successful (Brooks Law Group). Growing attention to fatal incidents similar to Heather Hurd could be a starting point to prevent texting and driving. In conjunction to sharing testimonials, more government funding in schools is needed to encourage high school students to install a phone/text-blocker application and other tools to help prevent someone from picking up their phone. I would also implement a program provided through the DMV that advocates against distracted driving. The curriculum would include a test drive simulating the challenges faced when maneuvering a vehicle safely while preoccupied. In order to obtain a driver’s license, you must complete the course in person and take an oath against texting and driving. An experiment performed by Kelli Nobel, “Does Driver Safety Education have an Impact on Texting While Driving?”, her data determined that driver perception on texting changed significantly by an informational intervention. In the pre-test most respondents answered that they sometimes text and drive, whereas the post-test given to the group after four weeks of education concerning distracted driving indicated they never text and drive. (Nobel). This proves that educational programs will be an effective solution to the texting and driving epidemic. Although phones are prominent in society, spreading awareness through mandatory programs could educate people to keep themselves and others safe on the roads. One text isn’t worth a life.

Works Cited

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