Distracted Driving: Taking the Fast Lane to Terrible Consequences



Distracted driving can have deadly consequences, and it is unfortunately popular with teens. (Mandi Wright/Detroit Free Press/MCT)


Distracted driving can have deadly consequences, and it is unfortunately popular with teens. (Mandi Wright/Detroit Free Press/MCT)

I remember the day that I passed my driving test like it was yesterday.

After sitting through a month of driving school, completing eight hours of in-car training and perfecting the daunting task of maneuverability, I had finally gained enough knowledge to earn my driver’s license. The moment I held that 2 3/8 inch by 3 5/8 inch piece of plastic in my hands, I decided that I never wanted to do anything to jeopardize losing my driving privileges.

Six months later, I got in my first collision.

There was no distracted driving involved, but the police still determined that it was my fault; I had not given myself enough distance from the car in front of me. When she stopped abruptly, I slammed into the back of her van at full speed.

That experience really shook me. I hadn’t been texting, but I now realized it was that easy to get into an accident. Can you imagine if I had been driving distracted?

Sadly, most young adults don’t have to imagine it. Every day, more and more people try to multitask while driving. This isn’t limited to only texting; I’ve seen people do everything from applying mascara to attempting to eat a bowl of cereal while behind the wheel!

Where do today’s youth get this “I’m invincible!” mentality?

From a rap song, of course. “You already know though/You only live once: that’s the motto, n****, YOLO.” Often considered a modern day variation of “carpe diem,” rapper Drake coined “you only live once” as a phrase that is supposed to inspire listeners to make the most out each day. Experience new things. Take chances.

But when did the idea of “taking chances” get twisted into being a permission slip to make dumb decisions? Young people now think that they have a free pass to engage in any reckless activity, especially behind the wheel.

Fortunately for Fordham students, we have numerous means of transportation available at our fingertips. However, that doesn’t mean that we are immune to the consequences of distracted driving; what if a car ran a red light at the same time that you were crossing the street? Is it not alarming that others prioritize reading emails and responding to texts more than watching out for pedestrians?

If you find yourself in the driver’s seat from time to time, there are many ways to ensure you’re not one of those distracted drivers:

Limit yourself to just having a few friends in the car. The more people you try to shove into the backseat, the harder it is to focus on the road ahead. And that crazy friend of yours that thinks car surfing is an acceptable way to pass time on a road trip? Let her take the bus.

Keep the music low. There’s no need to sit in awkward silence, but it becomes a problem when your music is up so loud that you can’t hear a honk or the siren of an ambulance.

Stay at the speed limit. Some teens have the notion that turning corners quickly or driving at a fast pace makes you appear to be a more “experienced” driver. However, it does just the opposite: you look incompetent and reckless.

Stash your cell phone anywhere out of sight. Personally, placing my cell in the cup holder within reach is just too tempting. It helps to simply keep your phone in a bag, and set it in the backseat.

Never get behind the wheel intoxicated. This might seem obvious, but you’d be surprised how many people think it’s completely acceptable to drive tipsy. The fact is that there’s no way to justify driving after downing a couple of drinks, even if you’re not to the point of being “drunk.” It only takes one or two beers to alter your reaction times.

All of these suggestions might seem like a lecture, but young adults need to be exposed to more reminders of safe driving. The thought of my little sister turning 16 this year has opened my eyes to all of the dangers on the road. Not only do I want her to be an alert driver, but I would be devastated if she was involved in an accident where the other driver was distracted. Think about your own relatives: what if they were the victims of someone else’s poor judgment?

If that still isn’t enough to motivate you to steer clear of driving with distractions, just think of the story of Casey Feldman, a former Fordham student that was killed by a distracted driver in 2009 while crossing the street. Or think of the aspiring rapper, Ervin McKinness. After a night of boozing with his buddies, McKinness decided to get behind the wheel and document his reckless driving with a tweet: “Drunk af going 120 drifting corners #FuckIt YOLO”

Minutes later, McKinness and four others died in a car crash immersed in flames.

YOLO, indeed.