By Taylor Renee Lee, Miss Vicksburg’s Outstanding Teen
October 9th, 2013. That was the day that I received my Mississippi issued intermediate driver’s license. I left my home alone for the very first time feeling bold and invincible. After driving for a few weeks, I began to notice the unpredictable driving habits of the drivers around me. Their carelessness could potentially harm themselves and other drivers. Upon my observation of this issue, I decided that I wanted to do something about it.
A few years before I started driving, I noticed that my mom would often dial numbers, change the radio station, and even eat while driving. For years she had been practicing these bad habits and one day I brought it to her attention. She had not even realized that she was distracted and wanted to make a change. That day, we made a pact that if she didn’t practice bad habits while driving, I wouldn’t. I eventually shared this conversation with my older brother and his wife, who were anxious to share this with their friends. This observation soon spread to many people in Vicksburg, in my home state of Mississippi.
Because of this small talk that I had with my mom, many adults approached me to share that they were practicing focused driving. I then realized that if my tiny voice could make an impact on adults, teenagers would listen to me also. When I decided to do the local Outstanding Teen Pageant, many people asked me what I was going to do for my platform. Avoiding distractions while driving was a perfect fit. I began talking to my friends around school, dance classes, and church about avoiding distractions while driving. While preparing for the pageant, I discussed the recent accidents and deaths caused by not paying attention to the road and did research on the statistics of distracted driving.
I came across the Teens Against Distracted Driving website while doing my research and found it very helpful. The statistics that I found were mind blowing! For example, did you know that distracted driving reduces your attention level to that of a person with a .08% blood alcohol concentration? .08% is the legal limit for sobriety while driving in many states, and if someone exceeds that level, he or she can receive a DUI. Finding this website opened my eyes to the factual dangers of distracted driving, and I feel that if other teenagers hear these facts, they will put the phone, drink, or lipstick down. During my year as Miss Vicksburg’s Outstanding Teen, I plan to speak at high school assemblies, church gatherings, and other citywide functions. Raising awareness is only the beginning of providing safer roads in America.