Five winners from the Hampton Roads area will receive checks of $2,000 to help them with their studies after submitting winning essays on the dangers of distracted or drunk driving. Cooper Hurley Injury Lawyers also announced one national winner.
The winners are Parish Thompson from Newport News, Jasmine Purchas from Virginia Beach, Gabrielle Parker from Smithfield, Carley Keurajian from Williamsburg, and Bailey Jones of Suffolk. Madison Milton, a rising third year student at the University of Tampa in Florida, is the national winner.
How Did These Students Win the Scholarship?
Students submitted essays and suggested ways of tackling distracted driving, a leading cause of crashes, deaths, and injuries for teens in Virginia and nationwide.
Parish Thompson, an incoming freshman at Old Dominion University, suggested an app to tackle the scourge of distracted driving.
“A great way to cut down on distracted driving would be for an app to track how much screen time a driver consumes. The app could be designed to track and save how much time is spent on unneeded apps, like social media. Car insurance companies could get on board by offering discounts to policyholders who spend the least amount of time on unneeded apps,” Thompson wrote, “A lock down mode could also be selected, allowing drivers extra points if they lock down their phones.”
Jasmin Purchas, 18, graduated from Tallwood High School in Virginia Beach this summer. As part of her submission to Cooper Hurley Injury Lawyers, she wrote a poem about a fictional girl called Hannah who drove drunk and killed her friend in an accident.
“So many people are like Hannah, the girl from my poem, thinking that ‘well it’s not that far’ or ‘what’s the worst that could happen’?” Purchas wrote. “And the problem with all these statements is that it stems from an incredibly selfish mentality. Not only is it dangerous for you to be on the road driving drunk, but it also endangers everyone around you and all those who are in the car with you.”
She urged teens to call a parent or use public transport to get home after a night of drinking. Purchas will be attending Virginia Commonwealth University this fall.
Gabrielle Parker who is majoring in English Secondary Education at Norfolk State University in the fall and has her sights set on a career in education, highlighted some less obvious distractions in her essay. While the smartphone revolution has highlighted the menace of distracted driving, loud music can also be a distraction, Parker pointed out.
“It may seem to some that riding around with your music blasting gives you a few extra ‘cool points,’ but your world could be changed in a split second,” she wrote, “The shocking reality is that driving with the music turned up too loud can negatively affect a driver’s reaction time. In the case of you getting into an accident or one happening around you, loud music can delay your reaction time. This could cause you not to properly break in a timely manner that would keep you and any other passengers out of harm’s way.”
Carley Keurajian from Williamsburg will use a $2,000 scholarship from Cooper Hurley Injury lawyers toward studies at the University of Georgia.
Keurajian suggested the creation of a new acronym to raise awareness of distracted driving. “The most important distraction a new driver should acknowledge before operating a car is the age of their passengers. DRIVE SMART is making good decisions. It is easy to give your best friend a ride without thinking about the consequences. Simply understanding how dangerous this is can save one or two teens from a fatal crash. Studies show that passengers 35 or older in a teenage driven car reduce fatality rates by 62%.” Keurajian wrote. “Finding the data on distracted driving was like finding a needle in a haystack; emphasizing how important this campaign is for the publics’ knowledge.”
Bailey Jones from Suffolk is currently wrapping up a Master’s of Forensic Science with a concentration in Drugs and Toxicology at Virginia Commonwealth University. Jones advocated a distracted driving simulation for young people when they take their test in Virginia.
“Distracted driving it is a matter of life and death, but young people typically feel invincible, so it is important to show them how serious this risk is,” Jones wrote. “One way that this could be accomplished is by implementing a virtual reality driving simulation as part of the driving test when you go to get a driver’s license where an abundance of possible distractions are thrown at the participant in the virtual space and they have to attempt to drive normally in spite of them,” Jones wrote.
Madison Milton, the national winner, is a rising third-year student at the University of Tampa double majoring in Psychology and Marketing.
Milton admitted she is prone to distracted driving and pledged to change her ways. “My phone is a big problem, a deadly problem in fact,” she wrote in her essay. “I am constantly on my phone while driving. I cannot even sit down right now to write this essay without constantly checking my phone. What am I doing on my phone when I am driving? Everything. Changing the music, checking text messages, reading emails, and map questing a location. Literally everything, except focusing on the road.”
“My friends and family members drive while looking at their phones as do most people in our society. If I want to avoid death, I have to show them how to put a stop to their deadly habits,” she wrote.
Contact a Virginia Distracted Driving Attorney
Distracted driving is a major danger on the highways of Virginia. According to state figures, it claims over 200 lives a year in the state and injures many more people. Cooper Hurley Injury Lawyers hopes young people can be encouraged to shift the focus from their phones to the highway through our Focused Driving Scholarships. Please contact us if you or a family member has been hurt in a crash caused by a distracted driver in Virginia.