It was a calm, quiet morning in rural Georgia – where I lived when I was four years old – surrounded by enormous green trees and fields filled with cotton. My family and I were driving down a two-lane, quiet country road and there weren’t many cars around because it was a Sunday morning in the South, so everyone was either at church or preparing to watch the football game. If there’s one thing you’ll learn about Georgia other than its peaches, it’s that the people there take life slow. Next thing I knew, there was a deafening bang and our car started to roll. We had been t-boned.
We rolled down a ditch, through a fence, and kept rolling until we hit a tree, stopping on our side. I remember feeling the blood rush down my face from the gash on my forehead, a swollen egg already forming there. People started coming down from the road to help us and my dad went up the ditch and onto the road to check on the person who crashed into us.
What he found, however, was an empty car. He turned around and saw the driver who hit us running towards a contractor’s yard. Assuming that the police would find the man, my dad came back down the ditch towards us. We heard the sound of distant sirens coming in our direction and, when the EMT’s arrived, they commented on how miraculous our outcome was. We were told it was a miracle we took our LandRover and not the minivan which would have folded as it rolled; a miracle we were all wearing our seat belts; a miracle we all survived.
We were taken by ambulance to the local hospital and then I was transferred to a specialist children’s hospital a few hours away. After a short stay, I was sent home with two black eyes, a fractured skull and a severe concussion. As it turns out, the car that hit us was stolen and the driver was never found.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, accidents – which include car accidents – are the third leading cause of death in the United States. Many steps need to be taken to remedy the main causes of accidents, specifically distracted driving and fatigue, in order to make U.S. roads safer, especially for teens.
Stories like mine are experienced by so many people all over the country. But some of these people don’t get the luxury of a miracle. According to an article on The Conversation, on U.S. roads alone, more than 30,000 people die every year, nearly 100 a day. Although there are laws against some distracted driving influences, such as texting, many people still drive distracted. Drivers between the ages of 15 and 19, where distracted driving is more prevalent, were involved in more fatal crashes as compared to those in other age groups.
Moreover, accidents are the primary cause of death for teenagers. However, when teens obtain more than eight hours of sleep per night, crash rates are found to significantly decrease. Many schools across the United States have made the switch to later start times in order to keep their student drivers safe. For instance, after Jackson Hole, Wyoming’s school district adopted a later start time, they saw a 70% drop in teen crashes. Although WHS did slightly change the start time this year, a mere 25 minutes is not enough to remedy teen fatigue.
If stricter laws were passed in the United States, which would be most effective at the federal level, and a majority of schools were to change to a later start time, roads and the drivers on them would become considerably safer.
However, these things will take time and effort to be accomplished, so in the meantime, what can you do?
Firstly, go to sleep. I know it’s easier said than done, but try to get as much sleep as possible so you aren’t driving fatigued. Secondly, never text and drive. It might seem tempting or not a big deal, but it is a pretty big deal if sending a text to your friend causes a crash and potentially someone’s death. If these simple steps are taken, U.S. roads will become significantly safer. And the next time you do something you know you shouldn’t do while driving, remember my story and the stories of all of those involved in serious car crashes. So I ask, what kind of driver do you want to be?