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2020 Scholarship Recipient: Ezra A.
Ezra has just completed her second semester as a freshman at the University of North Carolina at Asheville, and hopes to pursue a degree in STEM. She is currently an Environmental Studies major with a concentration in Biology. She has a 3.9 GPA and made the Dean’s list again this semester. She is also in the UNCA honors program which has opened many doors for her in terms of classes and course load. She has been accepted for the residential assistant program this year and will be overseeing the residence of a “Living Learning Community,” or LLC, that supports first-generation college students.
She is currently involved in an initiative at UNCA which aims to reduce plastic cup waste at campus coffee shops. The initiative’s first step in enacting this change is a study, conducted in collaboration with dining services, and will collect data and compare the results of new cup policies. They are using psychology to alter the way people think about their consumption. The coffee shops currently have a policy that, given a student bring a reusable cup, they get a 15- cent discount. We are changing that policy to a 15-cent upcharge when a customer does not have a reusable cup. They hope to increase reusable cup sales on campus and alter the way students view their plastic consumption. This will be a long process, but the end goal is significantly decreased plastic consumption and the implementation of policy which will create real change.
Ezra manages multiple roles very effectively: She is a student, part-time waitress, weekday volunteer at a local daycare center, weekend volunteer at a food bank, and weekend worker as a horticulturist. She is an athlete on the YMCA swim team and a cross-country runner. She works full time in the summers, but for the last three summers she still managed to attend the Fall Line South Field Institute, a summer outdoor learning experience, and this year, she was a Bartram Fellow and student-teacher at the camp. Her dream is to major in Environmental Science in college and to work in the field of environmental conservation, striving to save our planet. One day, she wants to be a voice that influences the policymakers and calls on them to consider the impact of our actions today on the world our children will inherit tomorrow.
Ezra’s Winning Essay:
Distracted driving is a major issue, taking many lives every year. It is proving to be deadly, not only for the driver but also for others impacted by the carelessness of the drivers. According to the FRA, in one out of every ten fatal crashes, the drivers were distracted. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 9% of fatal crashes in 2016 were reported as distraction-affected crashes, killing 3450 people. In 2016, there were 562 non-occupants (pedestrians, bicyclists, and others) killed in distraction-affected crashes. These numbers are alarming, to say the least, and we need to act now to raise awareness about the hazards of distracted driving.
The use of cell phones can be deadly, as it might involve all three distractions at once, where drivers’ minds are off the road and their eyes are fixed on mobile screens while hands are on the touchscreen. In 2016, there were 444 fatal crashes reported to have involved cell phone use as a distraction (14% of all fatal distraction-affected crashes), killing 486 people. So many lives could have been saved if only drivers had chosen not to use cell phones while driving.
Young Americans are increasingly becoming addicted to the use of smartphones. According to Common Sense Media, teenagers are spending an average of 9 hours a day online. Young Americans are becoming so attached to their phones that they are unable to resist the temptation to check the phone while driving. We can use the latest technology to counter our temptation to use cell phones. Apple users can use the Apple iOS 11 and Samsung users can use In-Traffic Reply, while Android users can use apps such as Cell Control Drive ID, Drivesafe.ly, and Live2Txt, to name a few. All these apps put your phone into a Do Not Disturb mode while you are driving and send an automated reply to the sender that you are driving and will contact them later. AT&T and Verizon are also offering apps to block calls and messages while driving. (Source: https://www.consumerreports.org/car-safety/technology-that-can-reduce-driving-distractions-dangers-car-safety-features/)
Drivers should be more careful and put a stop to the reckless behavior of using mobile phones while driving. We can use the many apps mentioned above or can even put the mobile phone in the trunk if we can’t resist staring at its screen every few minutes. The dangers of mobile phones can’t be eliminated by using them hands-free, as they still remain a source of cognitive distraction. It only takes three seconds of distraction to cause a car crash and reading a text message puts you nine times more in danger of a crash. The real question is this: Is using a mobile phone and reading text messages more important than your life?—since you’re putting your own life at stake by indulging in such reckless behavior.
We want to remain connected at all times, and car manufacturers are responding to customers’ demands by installing infotainment systems in the car. According to a new study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, the information and entertainment systems in many new cars can distract drivers for as long as 40-plus seconds at a time. According to the AAA, removing your eyes from the road for only two seconds doubles the risk of an accident. Navigation proved to be the most time-intensive, requiring drivers to take their eyes off the road for an average of 40 seconds. In that time, a car driving at 25 miles per hour would travel the length of four football fields, essentially driving blind. (Source: https://www.aarp.org/auto/info-2017/car-tech-gadgets-distracted-driver-fd.html)
The writing on the wall is very clear: a majority among us love those fancy systems in our cars, but they might prove to be a safety hazard. The government should regulate automobile manufacturers and ensure that such infotainment systems are intuitive, easy to use, and minimize distraction while driving. Drivers can act more responsibly, setting navigation, and entertainment options before starting to drive.
The new technology is infiltrating every walk of life and changing the way we lead our lives. Drivers need to remember all the time that the primary objective of getting behind the wheels is reaching a destination safely. Navigation is important and modern technology has revolutionized the way we navigate and search for our destination, but such tools can also become counter-productive by distracting drivers. The technology is not bad, but the way we are utilizing the technology is not the best way. We can set navigation systems and input our destination before we start driving, letting us enjoy the functionality without any danger. Act wisely, drive safely, and live happily!
2019 Scholarship Recipient: Owen W.
Owen will be attending the University of Central Florida this Fall and will be majoring in Film with a minor in Business. Owen’s essay and original “Mock” PSA about Texting and Driving stood-out amongst the many competitors! Watch the effective, and hilarious PSA Below!
Owen’s Winning Essay and “Mock PSA”
I am fortunate enough to say that myself nor anyone I know has ever been affected by a case of texting and driving. That, however, does not mean that the problem isn’t relevant. Within the past 15 years, the US has seen a major increase in consumer electronics, namely smartphones. When a product such as this changes society as instantly and drastically as the smartphone has, it can take time for the law to catch up. I am aware of efforts that have been made in the past few months in Florida that make texting and driving a primary offense, but I am also critical of them. The law is too susceptible to scrutiny, as the driver is informed of their right to not hand over their phone right before they are asked to do so. An easy way out for a criminal act like this makes any punishment more of a slap on the wrist than anything of weight. It is to my understanding that this law, pertaining to the state of Florida, must be revised to reflect the severity of an issue such as this.
The approach to ending texting and driving cannot be solved solely with the law. Tech companies such as Apple are making strides to give users the option to put their phone into “Do Not Disturb” mode, where they will not receive any notifications when their phone recognizes that the user is in the car. I find this to be a great idea and is certainly a realistic step in the right direction towards curbing texting and driving incidents. But one has to also recognize that not everyone will turn on this function in their phone, and of the 15 or more friends that I’ve been in a car with over the past year, I’ve only known one of them who opted to use this “Do Not Disturb” feature. I am admittedly not one of them. So, what other steps could be taken to curb texting and driving?
Because of my background in filmmaking and my desire to carry on with this career path well into my future, I see great potential in public service announcements and other media campaigns. This is also where I hope for my application to stand above the rest because I have made a mock PSA that I find to be funny enough to appeal to a younger generation yet with enough meaning to really stick with its viewer. I will include it in this email, and I strongly encourage the reader to watch it whenever you can. To tackle a digital problem like texting and driving, you must appeal to a digital audience. This can be done with social media campaigns, billboards, and announcements such as mine. These messages will reach their intended audience, and with enough repetition should really stick with the viewers. Think anti-smoking campaigns or even campaigns for dog adoption centers. These are ads that immediately call to mind detailed images and a call to action that are nationally recognized. Branding and repetition are the keys to getting a message across as serious as this one, and I would like to think that I have made at least the smallest dent in the problem by making my video.
In summation, curbing the epidemic of texting and driving has no one-step solution. It is a combination of governing laws, technological standards, and media campaigns that will help consumers understand the expectations of having a device with such great power to compute as well as distract. Users must know the dangers of texting while driving and face consequences if they do not adhere to certain standards. Of the same token, tech companies should be encouraged to apply safety systems that assist in the problems at hand as well. I appreciate the opportunity and hope you enjoy my sample video, and hopefully, with the right attitudes from all sides of this problem, the people can work to reduce the number of accidents that occur as a result of texting and driving.