2020 Murphy Law Firm Scholarship Winner

2020 Murphy Law Firm Scholarship Winner

Kalil Masters attends Lithia Springs High School as a Senior. His essay about texting and driving submitted to Murphy Law Firm in Douglasville has earned him a $500 scholarship to help with his college expenses.

Congratulations Kalil!

Congratulations Kalil!

Kalil Masters' Winning Essay on Texting & Driving

Read Kalil Masters’ Winning Essay on Texting & Driving

Murphy Law Firm Essay

In the modern age, cellphones and other technology have become commonplace in almost everyone’s lives. According to a study done by Common Sense Media in 2015, by age twelve 69% of kids have a phone. This means that by the time kids are 16 and ready to drive, nearly every kid will have a phone. While having a phone can make parents feel safer because they can know where their kids are, and unprecedented risk is taken by granting them this. In order to gain their license, teens under 18 have to go through a lot more hoops before they can get their license, and for very good reason too. By themselves, according to an article by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety 16-17 year olds already makeup 1432 of the car crashes compared to the next highest being 18-19 year olds at 730 per 100 million miles driven. Teens, overall, are a lot more irresponsible drivers than their peers.

Driving is an intensive that requires all of your attention 100% of the time. Taking your eyes off the road for even half a second can sometimes lead to an accident. Part of the issue with teens is that they might not take the act of driving seriously and that stems from parents not properly teaching them. As they are, teens have a habit of being on their phones. On average, teens spend 7 and a half hours on their phones so, if teens aren’t told to put it down while driving then they will continue to do it without a second thought. Parents even need to lead by example while their kids are in the car. In my own personal experiences, my mother is always on her phone when she drives and it never bothered me before I started driving. However, now that I’ve started driving back and forth to school everyday and various other activities, I’ve realized that it’s nearly impossible to do both at the same time. For an entire year after I got my license I never even had the radio on because it was way too distracting. Now, everytime I’m in the car with her it scares me to death when I see her do it. Unfortunately, not everyone sees it the same way I do and it causes so many more unnecessary car crashes.

At the end of the day, everyone wants to go home, safe and without incident. Teens who don’t know better need to be educated about the dangers of driving and how to do it safely. Every parent/guardian needs to have these types of conversations because neglecting to teach children about things as important as this will not only harm them but any person around them. This isn’t the type of thing that someone can afford to do trial by error and learn from their mistakes. Both driving and phones are things that can be beneficial to our society, but used incorrectly can cause a life altering change.


  • https://mashable.com/article/teen-smartphone-usage/
  • https://aaafoundation.org/rates-motor-vehicle-crashes-injuries-deaths-relation-driver-age-united-states-2014-2015/
  • https://abcnews.go.com/US/teens-spend-hours-screens-entertainment-day-report/story?id=66607555

2020 Scholarship Participant Essays

Before I discuss “Why texting and driving has become the #1 killer for teens…” I would like to review a few statistics about driving as it correlates to teens driving distracted. According to dosomething.org, 16-year-olds have higher crash rates than any other driver. Fifty-six percent of teens said they talk on the phone while driving. Only 44% of teens said they would definitely speak up if someone were driving in a way that scared them. More than 40% of teen auto deaths occur between the hours of 9 p.m. and 6 a.m. One in 5 of 16-year-old drivers has an accident within their first year of driving. Lastly, crash risk for teens increases incrementally with each mile per hour over the speed limit. These are significant numbers when discussing teen driving.

There are several reasons teens are distracted when driving. As a teen driver myself, I have friends who listen to music or text on their phones at lights when driving. These are definitely distractions. With the information age, we are easily distracted by different apps on our phones. Another testament to the number one killer for teens is while talking on the cell phone, many of us do so via duo or video call. This act can double the likelihood of an accident. It also slows a young driver’s reaction time down to that of a 70-year-old. A teen’s brain is not fully developed to make quick, quality decisions. Many teens believe they are invincible, so they take risks. I believe the most prevalent reason texting and driving is killing teens in this day and age is the problem of multitasking. This generation has become good at multitasking, and we do this while driving.

Here are a few suggestions that, if implemented, can help prevent texting and driving. Continue the awareness to target and educate not only teens who drive, but everyone aspiring to drive, starting with kindergarteners, about the dangers of distracted driving. Think about a toddler in their first play car. While driving, they are waving and or looking at anything but the road. If each generation is made aware that texting and driving is the number one killer, education on the risks and how it affects others will help everyone realize that texting and driving is a very bad habit. We should hold each other accountable. If we are in a car with a distracted driver, we should feel comfortable saying, “I am not feeling safe, “or “please stop multitasking.” Provide a system that rewards teens with good driving records as they reward for good grades? Another way to help prevent distracted driving is to create downloadable apps on phones that will disable all functions that would create distractions and interactions with the phone until the car is off. With these few adjustments, I believe the pursuit to end the era of distracted driving will be improved, and many lives will be saved.
Lawren-Chabad FrancisLithia Springs High School
From the advancement of technology to the development of our economy, the world around us is changing rapidly every day. As a generation where technology has been the basis of our everyday lives, it has come with its advantages and disadvantages—the major disadvantage being texting while driving. Within the last seven years of the progression of technology, it has caused a spike in the ongoing issue of texting and driving, especially in teens. According to the American Council on Science and Health, an average of 50 percent of driving high school students have admitted to texting and driving. I suppose this number is high because we have become so acclimated with the dependence of cell phones. Whether it’s searching for directions in the GPS or simply feeling the urge to reply to a text, people don’t realize that the slightest distraction for any amount of time can cause a major accident that not only negatively affects the driver and passengers but it puts every person around them in danger.

Ultimately, people won’t truly believe that they can be affected by a phone distraction accident until it happens to them or a loved one. A lot of us carry around this mentality that something like this could not happen to me, or we make claims like “it’s just one text, I’ll be fine,” not realizing that it could be our last one. Now, of course, we like to remain positive and not hold these possibilities above us, but it is important that we do not completely disregard them. An article published in 2017 by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution sheds light on the fact that from 2014 to 2016, the deaths of drivers due to distractions spiked by a third. Not only that but “fatalities rose 14 percent nationwide during the same time period” ( David Wickert, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution). I suppose now, especially after the passing of the Hands-Free Georgia Law on July 1, 2018, people are more aware of their own actions while driving. We see this from the Georgia Department of Transportation, where the results of fatalities dropped from 1,514 in 2018 to 348 in 2019. In order to continue this decline, we have to do things like turning off the notification sound, maybe even putting the device on Do Not Disturb mode, which allows for an automatic text to be sent so that you can focus on the road. I think that in order to break this habit of texting and driving it has to start with self-accountability. Ultimately, we have to do our part as individuals to make sure we are staying aware and safe while driving. It is our job to hold ourselves and the ones around us accountable for limiting our distractions while driving. We have first to continue to abide by the law and force ourselves to be uncomfortable enough to not reach for the phone and to practice not checking it while on the road to break this deadly habit.

Murphy Law Firm Scholarship Jessica Evans
Jessica EvansLithia Springs High School
Why texting and driving has become the #1 killer for teens and your suggestions on how to break the habit of texting and driving

1,600,000 accidents per year (National Safety Council), 330,000 injuries per year (Harvard Center for Risk Analysis Study), and 11 teen deaths every day is due to texting and driving. The number one killer of teens is motor accidents. 21% of fatal car accidents involving teenagers between 16 and 19 were the direct result of cell phone usage. According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, texting while driving makes you 23 times more likely to be in an accident. So why do teenagers still use their phones? Many teenagers use their phones because of the fear of missing out. When we see a notification, some people, including me, think it could be important, so we make a potentially fatal mistake of picking up the phone to answer it. Many of us do not think that we will get into an accident due to this.“ It will never happen to us” is the phrase of the day.

One of the main habits that I use when driving is turning off all my notifications (the sound and the vibration) until I get to my destination. I sometimes put my phone in my bag or a compartment to stop me from turning on my phone. The first step of reaching and opening the compartment is supposed to be a deterrent for me. I also put on apps such as Forest if I can not stop myself from the temptation. Even though it is a productivity app, I use it to help me get off my phone and not answer texts or phone calls. I turn on the app right before I drive. When the app turns on, it starts a timer. If you leave the app screen, then a tree dies. That always stops me from using my phone. What can I say, the tree is very cute. If I am going on a long drive, I text the people that normally text or call me daily to say, “I will be driving for an X amount of time” before I start my journey. Even with all of these habits, sometimes the right person can call or text me at the wrong time so because of this, I have an automatic texting feature on my phone that sends the phrase “I am driving, I will call you later” to anyone who sends me a message or calls my phone.

Texting while driving is the number one cause of death in teens. Hopefully, from this essay, you, as a reader, will be able to take some of my suggestions and use them to help others as I do myself.
Alexandria S. Beharry-FrazierLithia Springs High School
Popularity in this generation often pushes teenagers to do things with little to no regard for the negative outcomes of the situation. The same way that turning down a drink at a party is often considered “not cool,” the power of peer pressure alone has caused texting and driving to become the number one teenage cause of death.

Many teenagers believe that they can easily multitask and that “sending a quick text” is simple, and no harm could possibly be done. In fact, 94 percent of teen drivers acknowledge that they are aware of the dangers that come with texting and driving. However, only 35 percent of teenagers admit to doing it anyway. Awareness of the dangers behind texting and driving starts in the household. Parents must stress the importance of life over texts. Your parents would much rather receive a response back from you a few minutes later, once you arrive at your destination rather than receiving a call saying that their child has just caused an accident while texting.

Competition and influence are other factors behind the high rates of teenage death due to texting and driving. A teenager witnessing their friends texting while behind the wheel may be tempted to do the same. This causes many teenagers to develop the mentality that “if he or she can do it, so can I.”

The decisions made by teenagers are highly influenced by their peers. The bad habit of texting and driving can be broken simply by the positive influence of friends among friends. Being surrounded by friends with the mentality that “my life is more important” and that “it can wait” is more likely to influence you to think and act likewise. All it takes is to lead by example in order to save lives.
Aleia GrayLithia Springs High School
With the progression of time, comes the progression of technology. As a people, we have become increasingly dependent on technology because it is convenient, reliable, and makes our everyday lives easier. Technology has catered itself, especially to the younger audience, as phones become embedded into society. Phones are beneficial in many ways as they provide for apps, access to the internet, and communication with others. However, as much as cell phones are becoming a part of our lives, they are destroying them too. People now carry their cell phones with them everywhere, to work, school, and even in the car. As a teenager, getting a car is a milestone that comes with risks and responsibilities. Cell phones have increased the risk of driving a car because a teenager engages with the phone while they are behind the wheel. In this sense, phones have become a danger because they are a continuous distraction to a novice teenage driver.

Phones have become a distraction to teenagers because they contain multiple apps that teenagers feel the need to pay attention to. Teenagers constantly receive text messages, app notifications, and calls throughout the day. When these occur while the teenager is behind the wheel, it causes them to pay attention to their phones. Furthermore, if their focus is on what is happening on their screen, their focus is not on the road (that of which contains continuous hazards like oncoming cars, obstacles, etc.). A teenager’s hands belong on the wheel to effectively navigate roadways, but the moment their hands come off the wheel to look at or respond to a text, they become a moving hazard to themselves and everyone around them. According to an article on Arrive Alive, “One out of every four car accidents in the U.S. is caused by texting and driving,” the result of these accidents is often someone losing a loved one. For example, in 2015, a 17-year-old female was texting and driving, which caused her to run through a red light. After running the light, she came into collision with a car and killed a father and his young daughter. All because of a phone, a family is left with a gap that cannot be filled, and a teen will be charged with the deaths of two people. This story is one of many that proves the horrendous effects of texting and driving.

Texting and driving must be put to an end. The first step to combat texting and driving is having teenagers be thoroughly informed inside/outside of school regarding the dangers of this habit. It takes a combined effort to solve a problem and informing teenagers is how the community can become involved. This can be done by providing facts, watching videos, and listening to stories about texting and driving. On the individual side of things, teenagers can combat texting and driving by putting their phones on the “do not disturb” feature while they are driving. This option eliminates the teenager’s desire to pick up the phone because it does not notify the teenager when a message comes through. Texting and driving threatens the safety of our future leaders. For this reason, it is essential that teenagers recognize the dangers of distracted driving.
Sources: Patrick, et al. “Teens Texting and Driving: Get The Facts and Statistics Here!” Arrive Alive Tour, 20 Apr. 2018, arrivealivetour.com/unite/teens-texting-and-driving-facts/.
CBS News. “Minn. Teen Charged in Fatal Texting While Driving Crash.” CBS News, CBS Interactive, 20 Oct. 2015, www.cbsnews.com/news/texting-and-driving-minnesota-teen-kills-father-and-daughter/.
Mikayla GreeneLithia Springs High School
When teenagers get their license, they are excited and ready to conquer the world, but one nasty habit could ruin lives as these rambunctious kids get on the road. As of 2018, A study of more than 101,000 American teenagers found that 38 percent reported texting while driving. The generality of texting while driving increased with age, with 56 percent of those 18 and older reporting that they sometimes or regularly text. According to studies, 3,000 teens die each year because of texting and driving. This has exceeded drinking and driving as the leading cause of teenage death by at least 300 deaths per year.

I have had my own personal experience of the consequences of texting and driving. I was riding in the car with my friends, and the driver got a notification and proceeded to look down at their phone while driving to school. I watched her as she took her eyes off the road and began to swerve. I quickly snatched the electronic device from their hands and said, “ I am not about to die because you want to look at your phone.” They quickly apologized and focused on our destination. I would rather arrive alive.

This dreadful habit has caused so much devastation for our teenagers, and I have suggestions on how to reduce or even eradicate the texting and driving in our teens today. Most young adults have iPhones, and there is a setting that can silence texts and calls while driving, which could eliminate the distraction of looking at their phones. They could also store phones in the console or glove compartment while they are driving until they get to their destination. There are also different applications for your phone that you can download to prevent texting and driving. For example, AT&T Drive Mode turns on when your car starts and sends an auto-reply, letting them know that you are behind the wheel. Another very useful application is called Life Saver. This app has the power to lock your teenager’s phone while their vehicle is in motion, and once the car comes to a complete stop, it will unlock and can be used once again. If these things do not work for you and you are still tempted to look at your phone while driving, go as far as to lock it in your trunk until you reach your destination.

There are so many different ways to break the habit of texting and driving, but the best way to stop is to have self-control and think about the consequences. Knowing the statistics of teenage deaths and seeing what distracted driving can cause this should motivate you to at least take the time to think before you pick up your phone while driving. Being distracted from the road for even a second can be detrimental to your life and the people around you. I promise that any text, phone call, or social media post is not worth the repercussions.
Dejiana ReedLithia Springs High School
Texting and driving has become one of the leading causes of death in this country. Unfortunately, not only teens and young adults are the guilty culprits. Every day there are accidents caused by cell phone distractions while behind the wheel of a vehicle. The National Safety Council estimates that cell phone use contributes to 1.6 million vehicle accidents per year and that a fourth of those accidents are caused by texting and driving. Texting and driving is 6 times more likely to cause an accident than drunk driving. It’s not possible to look at your phone and look at the road at the same exact time, and this distraction is extremely dangerous. Driving requires being able to act instantly in certain situations, and if your attention is not on the roads and your surroundings, that could be a recipe for disaster. Driving a vehicle makes you not only responsible for yourself but also for others that share the roads. It doesn’t matter how well you drive. If another driver is distracted, it can cost an innocent person their life. Is it worth it? What can be so important on your phone that simply cannot wait?

A lot of action has taken place to prevent any more tragic texting and driving incidents, including new laws being implemented. Sadly, many drivers today, whether a teenager or not, still cannot seem to break the habit of texting and driving. This is a major problem that everyone seems to ignore despite the fines, insurance premiums going up, and the fact that it’s against the law in most states to text and drive. It’s very obvious that we are in the generation of technology. The majority of people you encounter on the street have their attention drawn to their cell phones, whether it’s for business or pleasure. It seems everyone has to be in the know at all times.

There have been many suggestions and actions over the years to raise awareness about the dangers of texting and driving and how to break the habit. These include commercials and advertisements on television as well as social media. Laws have also been implemented, and many offenders have been fined, but unfortunately, it is not enough. Sadly, people still violate the law every single day. The question is, how do we get them to stop? If the overwhelming number of deaths reported every year just from texting and driving won’t stop people from doing it, what will?

Maybe the future of technology will be the answer. I suggest breaking the horrible habit of texting and driving. There should perhaps be an invention that automatically turns off your cell phone while your engine is running and make it impossible to turn it back on until the car is off or in the park. This will certainly make a lot of people feel like it’s the end of the world, but once upon a time, there were no cell phones, and people lived just fine. This generation of technology has made people think they can’t live without phones at all times.
Nicolas SuritaLithia Springs High School
Texting and driving is one of the most common deadly accidents that occur in teens. 1 out of every 4 car accidents in the United States is caused by teenagers who text and drive. Teen drivers are four times more likely to get into a car crash than an adult. Teenagers tend to become more distracted due to a lack of experience and a short attention span. Teenagers are known for spending multiple hours a day on their cellular device, which allows them to become easily distracted from what is around them. Social and technological influences are the main encouragement for teens to text and drive. Once they hear the notification sound, they immediately want to check who or what is notifying them. This creates a sense of temptation to answer their phone.
The temptation pressures on teenagers to send a quick message can put themselves and others on the road at risk. In a short amount of 5 seconds, anything can happen from hitting someone to running off the side of the road and becoming another statistic. Often at times, teen drivers feel confident enough to multi-task with driving and using their phone. For some, it gives them a sense of overconfidence and being “cool.” But in reality, it is just a bad habit that many teenagers and adult drivers have.
Multiple states have decided to ban texting in driving, such as the United States, Puerto Rico, and Guam. Some states decided to take action and create a solution to decrease the number of fatal injuries due to texting while driving. On July 1, 2018, the Hands-Free Georgia Act became effective. The Hands-Free Georgia Act states that it is illegal for your cellular device to touch any part of your body while driving. Although this act is put in place, many teens continue to put their lives in danger. There are a few other helpful ways to make sure that teens drive safe and stay out of harm’s way. One of the easiest things to do is to silence the cellular device. Teenagers will become more focused on the road rather than hearing the tempting sound of a text message. Once the phone is silenced, then there should be no reason to be distracted by the ringing of the phone. Another simple way is to place the phone out of sight and out of reach. By placing the telephone out of reach, teen drivers can not physically pick up the phone and use it; instead, they will have to wait till after they are safely stationed to answer their phone. Not only is silencing the phone and putting it away a good idea, but it is also great to prepare before the wheels start moving. Texting whoever you need to text or even setting up directions to a location before teens get behind the wheel will leave less room for dangerous behavior. This way, they will be safe on the road and allow the other person on the other side of the phone to know not to bother them while driving. Lastly, the best possible thing to do is to pull over, so no one gets hurt. Texting and driving is the number one killer for teen drivers, but there are ways to avoid the dangers for everyone’s safety.
Jacqueline GutierrezLithia Springs High School
Three seconds. A blink of an eye. This is the amount of time it takes for an accident to occur after a driver is distracted by their cell phone. There is an immense problem within our current generation of youth and the attachment we hold to technology. The prevalence of this issue is demonstrated, as an average of 11 teens die daily from texting and driving, according to an article published by TeenSafe. However, these numbers are not merely numbers but also the lives of youth—sons, daughters, nephews, nieces, future college students, and beyond. Considering this, one should explore the concept of prevention to these detrimental losses through acquiring knowledge and accountability
within the life and community of a teenager.

In the summer of my Junior year, I experienced an accident that completely shifted my perspective on the responsibility of driving. I realized through the negligence of the driver who caused the accident that others’ lives are placed in your hands each time you hold a steering wheel. Although I wasn’t the at-fault driver, the experience placed fear into my heart that took me many months to recover from. Like many teens, I had seen driving as frivolous and simple, and it wasn’t until after the accident that I understood the responsibility of being behind the wheel. I believe that if teens were aware of the adverse risk texting and driving carries not only in their lives but the ones they love—they’d think twice before picking up a phone to send a text.

However, in order to break a habit, one must inquire when and why the habit has been formed. Our current youth is generation Z, a group driven and raised within the glorification and progression of technology. Although—we aren’t the only individuals with one hand on the wheel and another gripping the phone. Statistics show that 69 percent of Adults Between the ages of 18 and 64 admit to using their phones while driving in the year 2019. Youth often see family members or authoritative figures texting and driving—hence their response is to only reflect that same action. In order to solve such a detrimental problem, one must expose a possible source of the issue. Through honest dialogue between parents and youth as well as raised awareness of the deadlines of texting while driving—a radical shift can occur—as youth often imitate the actions of those surrounding them. Ultimately through these methods, the usage of phones with teens while driving has the potential to become as bizarre as not wearing a seatbelt.

A great man once said, ‘we are not a product of our environment, but of the choices we make each day.’ In today’s society, both adults and teens have a choice to progress like the ever-changing technology we hold. The text or phone call can wait. And I, along with our society through awareness and exposure of this issue, have the ability to create this state of mind, into a common rule, and a voiced expectation—so that teens no longer feel the need to exchange someone’s life for the usage of a phone while driving.


Car Crashes are the Number One Killer of Teens


Eboni RichardsonLithia Springs High School – Plans to attend Spelman College

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