Freshman girls swept the News Tribune's annual It Can Wait contest this year.
Madelyn Goodson, a freshman at Calvary Lutheran High School, won the video contest, while Leah Sommerer, a home-schooled Cole County freshman, won the essay contest.
For each contest, students addressed the question: "What is the most persuasive argument to convince people not to drive distracted?"
The girls each won $500 for their efforts and advance to the state competition, where they will compete for a $750 prize in their respective category.
For several years, the News Tribune has sponsored the local version of the contest for students, which is centered on the dangers of texting and driving. Winners of the local contest advanced to the statewide competition.
The statewide competition, sponsored by AT&T and the Missouri Press Association.
We thank the high school students who participated and encourage our readers to read/view the works of the winners in hopes of further engaging the community and the Legislature in conversation about the dangers of texting and driving.
Sommerer's essay follows:
'It Can Wait'
By Leah Sommerer
It can wait. A text, a phone call, a snap, it can all wait. Thousands of lives are taken each year because people choose to use their cell phone while driving (Report Menu). As a result, a life that once was there only moments before is gone. It does not matter whether you are sorry or not, your feelings cannot bring back that person who was killed. All life has value. That means those in the car in front of you, the person who makes your food at McDonald's, the man standing on the side of the road. Because of distracted driving, anyone can be put at risk. According to Arrive Alive, it only takes seconds to look down at your phone and away from the road to cause an accident (Distracted Driving 2018). Once this happens, you can never take it back. It is not just the three seconds it takes to look away from the road, it is forever. Forever damage is done. Forever there is an empty seat at Christmas dinner. You will never see your friend again. It is forever. No text is worth it. It can wait.
We may think of distracted driving as mainly being teenagers or young drivers, but it does not matter how young or old you are; using a cell phone while driving can result in death. "People have to remember that if you kill someone in a car crash, it requires no intent whatsoever," Sgt. Scott B. White from the Missouri Highway Patrol stated. "You can be the class valedictorian, you can be the best school athlete, you can be the class clown, but if people aren't doing the right things behind the wheel, you can easily end someone else's life."
Missouri is one of the more relaxed states in the U.S. when it comes to cellphone use while driving. Under its current law, drivers 21 years old and younger cannot text while behind the wheel of a motor vehicle. If caught violating this, it could result in a $200 fine and two points against your driver's license (Driver Guide p. 70). Even this however, is minor. Your life does not end when $200 is taken away from you. Your life also does not end if you get points on your license. Your life can end however, as a result of distracted driving. So, don't. Don't put yourself and others at risk for consequences you can never take back. You can replace money; you can replace a vehicle; you cannot replace a life.
"And people have to ask themselves," White continued, "'is this something I want on my conscience for the rest of my life'? Because when you kill someone behind the wheel, honestly, dead is dead. It doesn't matter if we are sorry, if we didn't mean to, or if it was an accident."
We make the choice each day to text and drive. It is the driver's choice to make. No one forces us to use our cell phones. Make the choice today to put your phone down. It can wait. You may be saving someone's life.
Missouri Department of Revenue. "Driver Guide." June, 2015. PDF file. P. 70.
"Distracted Driving: Get to Know the Facts For 2018." Arrive Alive Tour, 21 May 2018, arrivealivetour.com/untie/distracted-driving-facts-2018/.
Sergeant Scott B. White. Phone Interview. 28 Jan. 2020