2020 Scholarship Recipients

Younce, Vtipil, Baznik & Banks, P.A., would like to congratulate all of the applicants to our second annual scholarship contest. We received many compelling essays and although we wish we could award every student who applied, we had to narrow our selection down to ten finalists and from there two winners. Please join us in congratulating our winners, Miles Merriweather and Morgan Tribble, and our other eight finalists listed below.

1st Place – Miles Merriweather

Miles Merriweather, winner of the Younce, Vtipil, Baznik and Banks scholarshipEvery year, distracted driving claims thousands of lives across the country. According to the NHTSA, in the year 2018 alone, almost 3,000 lives were lost directly as a result of distracted driving. These incidents have profound impacts on those involved, and many have lost loved ones as a result of this. Those affected aren’t simply vehicle operators, but injuries and deaths attributed to distracted driving are commonly seen in passengers, pedestrians, cyclists, and anybody else who unfortunately happens to be in the way.

In order to understand the steps towards a solution to this issue, and to initiate the mitigation of crashes and traffic incidents related to distracted driving, we must first understand the root of the problem itself. Distracted driving can be classified as simply any activity that will take a driver’s attention off of the road. This can range from adjusting the radio, manipulating the air conditioning, or any number of things. However texting is the distraction that has become increasingly prevalent in recent years. In this day and age, technology is ever present and we are connected 24/7. Our cellphones have undoubtedly become an integral part of our daily lives whether we like them or not, and frequently our reliance on them extends into the car. We commonly use our phones for navigation while driving, but often we’re doing non-essential things like scrolling on social media and texting while we should be focused on the road.

Part of the reason that we see such a balloon with the statistics regarding car crashes involving young people is because of the reliance that the new generation has on cell phones. The average teenager in America is on a screen for 7 hours a day according to a national survey performed by Common Sense Media that has been tracking statistics relating to cell phone usage in children ages 8-18. Teenagers especially have intricate social connections and access to technology is what allows this to happen. However, the allure and pull of things like social media are commonly distractions on the road for beginner drivers, who not only lack experience but also are increasingly distracted for this exact reason. This feeling of connectedness that teenagers feel and the instant gratification that they can receive by interacting with their phone in some capacity makes cell phone usage a tantalizing prospect whether they are driving or not.

To solve this problem we can take advantage of a number of ways to deter usage while driving. A potential solution can be to develop software that can be installed on the phone that makes use of the accelerometer to determine when someone is in a car. When rapid motion is detected, the phone will still be able to do things like call emergency services, but the user won’t be able to log onto it. This can be disabled beforehand in case somebody is a passenger or on some form of public transportation. Though it’s virtually impossible to eradicate distracted driving completely, we can take steps towards making it less of a problem. Deterring people from doing things on their phone while driving can make a big difference, and by reducing distracted driving accidents we can manage to save countless precious lives.

Works Cited

  • Andrew.currin.ctr@dot.gov. “U Drive. U Text. U Pay.” NHTSA, 6 Mar. 2020, www.nhtsa.gov/risky-driving/distracted-driving.
  • Kamenetz, Anya. “It’s A Smartphone Life: More Than Half Of U.S. Children Now Have One.” NPR, NPR, 31 Oct. 2019, www.npr.org/2019/10/31/774838891/its-a-smartphone-life-more-than-half-of-u-s-children -now-have-one.

2nd Place – Morgan Tribble

Morgan Tribble, winner of the Younce, Vtipil, Baznik & Banks scholarshipMorgan Tribble, winner of the Younce, Vtipil, Baznik & Banks scholarship

Ping!  Ping! We’ve all heard it—that high-pitched sound that comes from a text or a social media update. We don’t have time to wait a few seconds for the next stop light or to pull over before we check it out.  So, most of the time, we give in.  We look at our phone or even worse, we interact with it.  Distracted driving is one of the top causes of car crashes, especially among younger people.  These distractions range from talking to people in your vehicle, manipulating the stereo system, or navigating on a GPS device.  One type of distraction can be bad, whether visual, auditory, cognitive, or manual.  However, when you add three of the four types together, the result is often fatal.  This combination of distractions is what texting involves.

I believe it is hard for people to stop distracted driving for several reasons.  First of all, my generation has grown used to this connection that we have with others through our mobile device.  It somehow gives us a link to the world around us whether through a news app, another voice, or a pod cast.  Without this outlet to a broader society, we feel disconnected.

Secondly, my generation has grown up with a “now” mentality.  From “on-demand” television, online ordering, same day delivery, instant messaging, this next generation of drivers do not have the patience to wait until their next stop before making a call or texting a friend.  Now, the question isn’t about whether one has internet or not, but rather the speed of the internet.

Finally, according to research by David Greenfield, founder of the Center for Internet and Technology Addiction, perhaps another reason that we cannot stop distracted driving may be an addiction.  Our brain instinctively responds to the pings we receive when getting a text or social media update.  We actually may feel a compulsion to answer it.  With each ping our brains get a dose of dopamine, a chemical which energizes it.  Unfortunately, according to this research, our now activated reward center in our brain may actually decrease access to another part of the brain at the same time—our prefrontal cortex where most of our reasoning and judgment occurs.

So, what is this solution?  I would like to say that more education is the answer.  However, I must be entirely honest.  My generation knows the statistics of distracted driving.  We have been taught in school and in our homes the risks that distracted driving involve. We may have even heard about accidents close by which were a result of this very act.  Yet, the majority of young drivers still answer and/or send texts and exhibit other distracted behaviors while behind the wheel of a car.  I believe there needs to be a mechanical function in the phone itself which turns off use during vehicle movement.  I believe choice needs to be removed from the equation.  I don’t believe at this point that we are capable of choosing restraint for ourselves.

Finalists:

  • Brandon Davis Speight
  • Davin Stephen Schmidt II
  • Isabelle W. Sanz
  • Ryan James Reece
  • Alexis Alston
  • Yuri Bautista-Mendez
  • Laura Zapata
  • Avery Caroline Rabon