In Part 1 of this blog series, we featured some of the best responses from students across the nation who were asked whether they thought cell phone manufacturers should be held responsible for distracted driving. Over fifty students from many universities responded, and we were struck by the strong commitment by students to take responsibility for their own actions while driving.
Since we received such an overwhelming response, we decided to pose this same question as part of our 2018 scholarship essay contest. And once again, the results were remarkable. With difficulty, we chose a winner of the $1,000 prize; however, so many of the submissions we received were noteworthy that we wanted to share them with you!
As with the first round, the commitment students showed to talk about the dangers of distracted driving and willingness to take responsibility for their own actions while behind the wheel is what struck our judges most. We believe this is a positive indication of social change considering that car accidents are still the number one cause of preventable teen death in America. We hope students like these can help change their generation’s view on safe driving.
Please consider spreading social awareness about this issue by sharing this important message with your friends and family!
Do you think that cell phone manufacturers should be held responsible for distracted driving?
“While cell phone manufacturers may have a moral incentive to implement systems which prevent distracted driving, it is clear that the necessity to do so by any court would be inconsistent and in direct contradiction of current traffic laws within the United States. It is important that judges maintain awareness of this contradiction while dealing with lawsuits like the one mentioned above to prevent confusion and injustice within our country's legal system.”
Read Ethan’s full essay here
Crystal Chandra, Palo Alto University:
“What the consumer does with the cell phone after should not be the manufacturers responsibility… Holding the manufacturer responsible is like blaming a grocery store for selling milk to someone who is lactose intolerant... I know it may sound wacky, but there comes a time when you have to stop looking at every other possible cause for justification and just hold the person responsible for their own actions.”
Jerronnie Colclough, North Carolina A&T State University:
“In order to truly stop distracted driving people have to break bad habits. The best drivers in the world are those who are aware and care about not only their life, but the lives of others as well. In the end why should we say cell phone manufacturers are responsible for distracted driving? It is our choices that cause us to be distracted as drivers rather than cell phone manufacturers. We can either care about our lives or not. The choice is always ours.”
We can either care about our lives or not. The choice is always ours.
Keandra Deslandes, University of Mary Washington:
“People need to be responsible for their own actions... Manufacturers can put countless warnings, but the consumer will still make the choice to use it… [I]nstead of blaming manufacturing companies, it would be wiser to hold government more accountable by applying the ban on all cell phone use in all states and dispatching more police. But even rules can only go so far, ultimately safety and accountability resides with the driver. When will people realize that a life is more important than a text?”
Nathan Diakun, University of Southern California:
“Should the inventor of steak knives be held responsible for their use to injure people? Cell phones were invented and manufactured to facilitate more convenient communication; it is unreasonable to expect manufacturers to conceive of distracted driving as a side-product… Drivers are fundamentally in control of the situation: as with any other sources of distraction (like loud passengers or music), cell phone distractions can be mitigated, by turning them off, or stowing them away.”
Taxeira Harrington, Johnson & Wales University:
“Too many times companies and manufacturers are to blame for user errors. It’s sad that Tide now must put a warning to not consume Tide Pods. It’s sad that there must be a warning not to put a child in a washing machine/dryer… Some people feel that they need to blame the manufacturer of the product, in this case a phone. Really the person knows it is their own fault.”
Tiffini Johnson, Johnson & Wales University:
“Cell phone manufactures create products that simplify our lives from the palm of our hands; we cannot expect them to be held accountable for the actions of the public. I appreciate the ways that cell phone providers have created apps that allow you to respond to text message by voice reply or stop you from receiving message while in your car. Those are all great ways to help drivers focus more on the road and less on the messages that arrive on their phone.”
Matthew Kopp, Rutgers University:
“People cannot have it both ways. Automobiles are not moving living rooms. We, as a society, cannot keep requesting more and more modern conveniences be put into our automobiles, and then complain when the use of those same conveniences leads to accidents. Modern technology does not trump human nature. First and foremost people need to take responsibility for themselves and their actions. By taking responsibility, whether it be driving with kids, eating in the car, or using a cell phone, drivers have the power to put an end to distracted driving and the accidents it creates.”
James A. Leftenant, University of Phoenix:
“People must understand cell phone manufacturers are selling the consumer or customer a tool and the choice and responsibility falls on us... Before I received my military driver’s license, I had to take a defensive driving course to help hone my skills in driver safety. It helped clarify the fact that when you are a driver you must drive both offensively and defensively; and that included military vehicles and civilian vehicles. Now as a professional driver, I personally feel responsible for multiple lives every time I’m behind the wheel. Barring a serious emergency call, no phone call or text message is worth jeopardizing my family or anyone else’s.”
Emma Lipkowski, Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology:
“On average, 11 teenagers die every day in distracted driving crashes involving texting. Texting while driving now factors into more than one-quarter of all traffic accidents. Smartphone companies need to do more to prevent distracted driving crashes. They should engage features that prevent users from accessing their phone while behind the wheel. The best solution to reduce texting and driving car accidents is one in which a person has no control over whether he or she can text or not.”
On average, 11 teenagers die every day in distracted driving crashes involving texting. Texting while driving now factors into more than one-quarter of all traffic accidents.
Jessica Perez, Shepherd University:
“Any step that phone manufacturers and wireless companies take to help consumers overcome their addiction is beyond their contractual responsibility. They are not legally required to implement a motion-detecting lock-out mode of any kind – especially considering that type of technology may hurt more than help, since at this time there’s no way to tell if the phone in motion belongs to a driver or a passenger. Any apps or software systems that do implement this technology should do so because they choose to (it’s a good PR move and the moral thing to do), but punishing companies for the misuse of their products by their consumers isn’t fair… At the end of the day, this is our mess. And as nice as it would feel to blame our problems on someone else, we have nobody to blame for this but ourselves. Fixing the distracted driving problem requires nothing more than reprioritization. Every driver must choose for themselves which is more important: their phone or their safety.”
Fixing the distracted driving problem requires nothing more than reprioritization. Every driver must choose for themselves which is more important: their phone or their safety.
Caitlyn Smith, Washington State University:
“Making the phone company responsible takes away the ability to learn and makes it easy to pretend that distracted driving is okay. It is not, and we need to end it. Because there is a Do Not Disturb mode, there are warnings everywhere and a phone is a tool, I do not think that phone manufacturers should be responsible for distracted driving. At the end of the day, distractions are everywhere, but we have to choose to remain focused.”
Troy Tuquero, University of California San Diego:
“In resolving the issue of distracted driving, it is imperative that we come together to address it from cultural, political, and technological perspectives. We should both applaud the cell phone industry in making strides towards improving driver safety while condemning their attempts to rescind common-sense regulations that would curb the issue of distracted driving. Our number one priority must be saving lives and working for the common good, and cell phone manufacturers must be involved in the national dialogue to make such progress happen.”
Ali Kerai, University of the Incarnate Word:
“Negative reinforcement is a proven and successful psychological method for molding behavior… I think cell phone manufacturers should program cell phone alarms or work with car manufacturers to detect and curb cell phone usage in and around the driver’s seat. Car manufacturers have already taken steps to accommodate safe phone usage with Bluetooth options and cell phone holders. I believe it is time cell phone manufacturers also take on a measure of responsibility – like asking the cell phone user if she or he is a driver when accessing the GPS. Even the smallest reminders can save lives.”
Aneeta Mathur-Ashton, American University:
“The main reason why cell phone manufacturers should not be held accountable for distracting driving because the decision to drive while using the phone is a choice. Whenever you get into a car, you are the one in control of the car and you are in control of what you do. It is entirely your choice to give up your safety and the safety of those on the road by getting distracted. No one is making you glance over at your phone to see if someone liked your photo on Instagram or see if your friend texted you about something. And because it is purely a personal choice, no one else should be held accountable or be blamed.”
Eliana Blam, Vassar College:
“In an era where we like for everything to be at our fingertips, people do not want to wait until they get home or to their destination to text their friends back or change their music on their phone. We want convenience and some people are willing to risk others and their own lives for it. The more demands we make for easier handsfree phone use from both cell phone manufacturers and app makers, the less people will feel the need to text and drive. While a long term shift in our attitudes towards distracted driving will be the permanent solution, changes in hands free technology will begin to diminish texting and driving.”
Nandi Bryan, North Carolina State University:
“Cell phone customers need to be held accountable for their distracted driving. It is unfair to blame cell phone manufacturers for the actions of their customers. Customers should be consciously aware of their dangerous driving habits and other people on the road. Cell phone use while driving is dangerous, but with the right education to the public we can minimize the amount of fatal car crashes caused by distracted driving.”
Silancia Delivrance, University of Central Florida:
“While I do believe that manufacturers should not be responsible for distracted driving, they should address the issue. A feature that I found helpful on my phone is that there’s a driving mode... I believe that ringtones should not be silenced because phone calls they could be important calls. If the driver would like to silence their phone calls also, that should be an option they’re allowed to edit. Then again, if the manufacturer chooses not to create their phones in such a way where this feature is included, they’re still not at fault for distracted driving. In the end, we cannot hold the manufacturers responsible for the decision we, the consumers, decide to make which is allowing ourselves to be distracted while driving. It’s not mature for us to come up with excuses or blame others [rather] than accept our own mistake.”
Morgan Andrews, Rhode Island College:
“Smartphones provide the temptation for fulfilling immediate gratification as we simply reach into our back pockets to watch highlights of last night’s game, or text a friend or scroll through funny pictures of animals. Cell phone manufacturers chose to capitalized off the flaws of humankind. Companies know human beings struggle to resist temptations. Instead of designing cell phones with safety in mind, manufacturers chose to fuel the power of distraction. If cell phone manufactures spent a fraction of their time focusing on the safety of their consumers, rather than how to entertain their consumers, the likeness of distracted driving would be greatly reduced… Although it is first and foremost the driver’s fault for allowing themselves to be distracted, cell phone manufacturers have the ability to remove most distractions from this equation entirely. Cell phone manufacturers who chose to ignore the well-being of their consumers should be held responsible for their negligence.”
If cell phone manufactures spent a fraction of their time focusing on the safety of their consumers, rather than how to entertain their consumers, the likeness of distracted driving would be greatly reduced.
Gideon Tong, Moorpark College:
“To hold a company responsible for creating a product that was misused, which became a tool for committing a crime is a ludicrous idea. So why should cell phone manufacturers be any different? There are better solutions than forcing manufacturers of these products to pay damages, as those costs will be passed to the consumer, thus indirectly causing the general public to bear the cost of those who make poor decisions when driving... Thus, although drivers may be heavily distracted by electronics, it is the lawbreaker that should be punished, not the maker of the intermediary tool used to break the law.”
Briana S. James, Messiah College:
“No one forces a driver to pick up their phone. No one forces a driver to text someone and take their eyes off the road. Nonetheless, some drivers are tempted by the ding of a cell phone and they fall for the temptation. They deliberately make the decision to text. To blame the fault on cell phone manufacturers for distracted driving would be silly because it is implying that phone manufacturers made every driver text and drive and that is not the case. Drivers choose to be distracted and can only blame themselves.”
Alan Kwong, Pennsylvania State University:
“Cell phones makers are a vital part of communication in the modern world, but ultimately are not responsible for how someone drives a car. While cell makers could potential create features that would disable a phone during a car ride, how could they tell if someone is acting as a passenger or a driver? New software embedded into future models have the capability for cars to avoid collisions and possibly drive autonomously. It may not be the responsibility for cell manufacturers to stop making their product less distracting, but make it the responsibility for drivers on the roads to understand the dangers associated with them.”
Abraham Ogundare, University of Colorado Boulder:
“Lack of self-control is the reason why most car accidents happen. It is not because of the phone, but rather the driver who lost control or was unaware of what was happening around him…”
Isaiah Torres, University of California Riverside:
“...the phone companies do not have any blame to any of the accidents that occur because the blame falls into the hands of the driver who caused the accident...[E]ach driver at some point in their driving careers has been told not to use a cell phone when driving. I remember studying it when I was taking my driver’s ed classes online.”
Kelsey Tuttle, Grand Canyon University:
“Distracted driving is a choice that you make each time you get behind the wheel. It is our responsibility as active participants in society to help others as well as our self be safer on the road. It is not our choice to decide when other peoples stories end. Rather it is something we must hold ourselves personally responsible and accountable for not only your life but the lives of others around us when we are on the road.”
Distracted driving is a choice that you make each time you get behind the wheel.
Kelsey Walker, Pellissippi State Community College:
“Drivers need to learn about the consequences of driving while using cell phones and take responsibility for their actions. Although cell phones are one of the biggest distractions for drivers, the manufacturers cannot be held responsible because they are in no way encouraging their customers to drive while using their smartphones. The choice to text and drive is made by each individual driver and each person should be prepared to take responsibility for his or her own choice.”