Dylan Sydneysmith (Southwestern Law): Don’t Text & Drive Scholarship

I have always been a person who approaches almost every situation as a logical, factual analysis. This mindset helped me succeed on the LSAT, it is now helping me excel in law school, and it has throughout my life been a point of occasional exasperation for my family, friends, and significant others. Writing this essay has, therefore, confronted me with the uncomfortable question of why an inherent part of me thinks texting and driving is “not really that bad”. I never drink and drive because I know it is dangerous and irresponsible, yet the California Office of Traffic Safety estimates that 424,000 people were injured in 2013 because of distracted driving in the United States. This is compared to only 350,000 injured as a result of drunk driving. If distracted drivers injure 74,000 more people a year than their intoxicated counterparts, why do so many people like me vehemently condemn the latter while dabbling in the former?

In the attached conversation, I was texting my friend Brian to try and coordinate our plans for the evening. Brian is one of my oldest friends and he was flying out of Vancouver to Rio de Janeiro the next morning while I would be flying back to Los Angeles a few day later. It seemed important at the time because I knew he was on a tight schedule and I wanted to make sure we connected before not seeing each other for several months.

Of course, it doesn’t matter how important the message might have felt at the time. Any message can always be sent upon arrival. Alternatively, you can pull over if its urgent, or, if this is a situation in which you often find yourself, then you can invest in a hands-free system for your car or use your phone’s AI assistant. The bottom line is the risk almost never outweighs the reward.

I think part of the reason our society (particularly millennials) find it so hard to stop texting and driving is our seemingly insatiable appetite for constant stimulus and instant gratification. We are so used to incessant input that it’s not so much a decision but a reflex to check our phones while we drive. It is a bad habit that can and needs to be broken.

As for myself, it may seem impressive that the last time I texted while driving was back in December, but this is largely because I don’t own a car in Los Angeles. I will be back in Vancouver with my car at the end of the month and the same urges to make plans on the go with my friends, family and girlfriend will be there again. What’s different now is that thanks to this essay I have done research on the numbers. As a logically minded person I can no longer deny that texting and driving is at least as bad as the drunk driving I have always opposed. It’s time I stopped turning a blind to how irresponsible sending those messages behind the wheel really is.