When the sun is shining and you are enjoying summer vacation, it’s hard to imagine anything going wrong. But then you get a phone call and suddenly you have to question the meaning of life; you question the fairness of the world; you reflect and find new value in being alive. I was in Germany visiting my grandparents when I got the news that my elementary school best friend was in the hospital, and his younger brother was no longer in this world. A little piece of me shattered and I could not stop the tears from streaming down my face; why did this happen? An 18-wheeler had swerved, overcompensated, crossed to the wrong side of the road, and ultimately destroyed two 13-year old boys’ lives and shattered the hearts of everyone who knew them. What caused that commercial vehicle to lose control? No explicit answer may ever be provided, but generally human mistakes happen because we are prone to distractions. My sophomore year in high school, I had AP psychology with one of the varsity cheerleaders at Albuquerque High. She always smiled in class and I took her quirky comments for granted. I was always thankful for her joyful presence and company. Then, over Thanksgiving break, another driver ran a red light, ending the light of his own life and putting Venessa into a coma, with her body paralyzed and nearly every bone broken. How can you miss a red light? In a perfect world, this tragic car crash would not have happened, so it must have been that either he wasn’t paying attention, or he became so distracted by his destination that he made poor choices. Albuquerque High School has a very tight knit, supportive community. We all care for each other and when one of us suffers a loss, we all feel it. I did not know the family, but just the same, I feel the pain of my peers; a couple of months ago, in Mexico, an entire AHS family was killed in another crash. Once again, the details are not clear, but to some extent, every crash is caused by some type of distraction. People aren’t perfect, so our environments can cause us to make mistakes, but when the cause of such an incident is a distraction that is easily preventable and not just a side effect of being alive, it is no longer a mistake; it becomes a lack of responsibility–a choice. It is important to remember that in cars especially, any error can be fatal. Driving is a privilege and a responsibility, so it is imperative that we see it as such. Every mile behind the wheel is a mile in which your life, and the lives of others, is held between your fingers, a steering wheel, and the pedals beneath your feet. Some situations cannot be controlled, but as a member of society it is our duty to limit factors that could contribute towards less safe driving: distractions. So, what constitutes a distraction? There is no exact definition, but in the context of driving, a distraction takes the form of any external or internal influence that takes or limits your attention on the road. This includes but is not limited to intoxicating substances, cell phones, other people, music, eating, and your own mental/emotional state. There is a reason that driving while under the influence is illegal; why teenagers with a provisional license are only allowed to have one other non family member in the car; why hand free devices are mandated; why you are not supposed to drive when you are extremely upset or tired; why texting and driving is not allowed. Laws are in place to protect us, but in disregarding laws related to driving, we place many more people than just ourselves at risk. In a world of easily accessible information and instant gratification, teenagers especially have become so reliant on smartphones that they carry them around like an extension of their hands. I am no exception to this trend and it is true that smartphones can be very helpful, especially with GPS systems and fast communication. This usually benign and helpful technology has improved and expedited the process of getting to new locations, but it has also led to new problems. According to the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP), one in three teens text while driving, and that on a daily basis nine people in the U.S. die from distracted driving crashes. There is an obvious problem here; we need to bring attention to this issue, which in great part depends on education and teaching the importance of responsibility. Responsibility: noun–the fact or state of having a duty to deal with something. With driving, it means acknowledging the risks associated with driving, and taking control of the situation by doing everything in your power to be the safest driver that you can, which has the potential of saving lives. This is especially true for the driver, but it also extends to the passengers. It is their job to eliminate distractions, support the driver in being focused on the road, and holding everyone around them accountable for their actions; driving is a shared responsibility. With all of this in mind, what is my plan to eliminate distracted driving within my family? Firstly, we will all commit to holding each other accountable for our actions. This includes making sure that cell phones are in a place where the driver cannot access them while driving, and sticking to that rule when we are on our own as well. Remember, 390,000 injuries are caused texting and driving. Those are avoidable casualties and therefore that high number is unacceptable! Music is a wonderful thing and it is of special value in my family. Considering how much time is spent in the car, it is unreasonable to eliminate it, but the volume should never exceed the volume that would be acceptable in a neighborhood, and selecting music/radio station should be done before starting to drive, or only ever done by a passenger. And what’s the rule with friends and company in the car? Grandiose hand gestures and important stories should be left for another time. Arguments should be left until later, and of course, if there are tears involved or an angry pursed lip, then it’s not the time to drive. If someone is half falling asleep, then that is most definitely also not the time to drive. Lastly, eating should be done outside of the car to avoid that extra distractions (which I myself have seen to be a cause of swerving, a risk that is never worth taking). It is not possible to remove every possible distraction from daily driving, but the ones mentioned are just a matter of changing habits and recognizing what it means to be in a motor vehicle. Driving is a responsibility, so we must all hold ourselves and others accountable for our actions in the car. The devastation of a death caused by a car crash is unimaginable. It tears apart families and ruins lives–just look at the news; sadly, the stories from my life that I have shared are not unusual, there are countless others. Most importantly, crashes are almost always preventable. When there is potential to save lives, then it becomes our duty to do so; I am committed to it, and now I ask that you too work to help eliminate distracted drivers on our roads and take responsibility.