[fullwidth backgroundcolor=”” backgroundimage=”” backgroundrepeat=”no-repeat” backgroundposition=”left top” backgroundattachment=”scroll” video_webm=”” video_mp4=”” video_ogv=”” video_preview_image=”” overlay_color=”” overlay_opacity=”0.5″ video_mute=”yes” video_loop=”yes” fade=”no” bordersize=”0px” bordercolor=”” borderstyle=”” paddingtop=”20px” paddingbottom=”20px” paddingleft=”0px” paddingright=”0px” menu_anchor=”” equal_height_columns=”no” hundred_percent=”no” class=”” id=””][two_third last=”no” spacing=”yes” background_color=”” background_image=”” background_repeat=”no-repeat” background_position=”left top” border_size=”0px” border_color=”” border_style=”” padding=”” class=”” id=””][youtube id=”uFpwORxES-g” width=”600″ height=”350″ autoplay=”no” api_params=”&rel=0″ class=””][fusion_text]

A Word to Teen Drivers…. by Briana

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…And Please Enjoy Briana’s WINNING ESSAY on:

The Dangers of Texting and Driving

It is a well-known fact that texting while driving has rapidly surpassed drinking while driving as the top killer of teenage persons. Just as time continues on and society evolves with it, the number of dangers in the modern world has fluctuated alongside them. As we have transitioned into the 2000’s, we have come into what is undoubtedly a digital age where our teenagers have likely never had to live without the internet and instantaneous communication right at their fingertips. The issue is that cellular devices are becoming more addictive than substance abuse and teens require much more than a few slap-to-the-wrist lectures and laws to hit home that texting while driving is a mindlessly self-indulgent and unacceptable behavior. Today’s teens need a stronger means of prevention and breaking of this habit.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, “…sending or reading a text takes your eyes off the road for 5 seconds. At 55 mph, that’s like driving the length of an entire football field, blindfolded.” If teenagers were asked whether or not they would chance driving across a football field with a blindfold on, chances are that the common response is a solid “NO.” However; teens in actual surveys did admit to texting while driving 50% of the time. The obvious question is, “What makes technology so insanely addictive that teens would knowingly risk their lives (and the lives of others) for such behaviors?

While addiction is often attributed to character flaws, this is not actually the case. There is more going on deep within the chemistry of the brain. The brain’s development continues well into a person’s 20’s, leaving it more malleable and impressionable (especially during the teenage years). As we mature, the emotional center of the brain– the limbic system– actually grows and develops faster than the area of the brain that allows us to make rational judgments and decisions– the frontal cortex. These are two of the three areas most involved in addictive behaviors, and the limbic system is the main culprit: it registers emotional responses to behaviors (such as happiness when reading a nice text message from a girlfriend/boyfriend) and has a hand in using the good feelings to motivate repeating behaviors (i.e. reading more text messages). With this information, it becomes clear that teenagers cannot be expected to just understand the importance of certain rules prohibiting phone usage while operating a vehicle. As Brock Dietrich, an Ohio father who lost his daughter due to texting behind the wheel explains: “There’s lots of rules thrown at teenagers. Teens need an explanation as to why those rules are important– and that is emotionally impacting– or else they will rebel.”

The current laws in place are simply not making a significant connection. Dr. Andrew Adesman found that when comparing states with these laws in place versus those without, there was no difference in reported distracted driving statistics. In order to get the importance of choosing to drive safely across, many schools began holding community safety workshops in the evening– a teen who participated in one such workshop, Mitchell Silva, said: “It helped me realize that I need to tell somebody when they’re driving dangerously to protect myself.” However; it may be an even better solution to add such road safety courses as a mandatory high school credit. This would make teens think daily about choosing not to text while driving, as well as other safety precautions, and is especially advantageous considering most people now obtain their drivers license during their high school years. Within such a course teenagers can learn statistics, discuss the effects of new collision avoidance technologies, practice simulations of safe versus unsafe driving (implementing a type of headset projection technology), and learn simple ways to prevent unsafe habits– like completely silencing or turning off their cell phone when in a car and promoting the idea as peers collectively that distracted driving is socially unacceptable.

There is much hope that we can change the statistics of distracted driving (just as we have done with driving under the influence) with more community support and understanding of the fact that technology– especially cell phones and social media– are addictive and that distracted driving is the same as any other addictive behavior. Learning and making a recurring connection that involves emotional importance on some level is implemental in making a difference to save lives. Safe driving is a choice, but how we handle the issue of unsafe driving is also a choice that can make just as much, if not more, of a difference.

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Meet Briana Deneke-Jenkins… Future Environmental Scientist

In case you missed the exclusive article on Briana in our August 2016 newsletter, we have posted it below so you can get to know her a little better.

She may not be Captain Planet, but Briana Jenkins-Deneke, graduate of Alexander High School in Douglasville, is headed to Columbus State University to become an Environmental Scientist, and field dedicated to making the world a better, cleaner place.

“I’ve always wanted to be a scientist,” Briana said during her scholarship interview. “The environment doesn’t get the attention it should. I mean, this is the environment, and without it, we wouldn’t have anywhere to live.” As the head of the recycle program and many other earth-friendly projects at Alexander High School, Briana has proven she has a real passion for her chosen career path.

Attorney James Murphy was very pleased to give the $500 scholarship to such an enthusiastic student, who not only received straight A’s on her final report card, but received a score of 100% in AP Environmental Science! Way to go, Briana! [/fusion_text][/one_third][/fullwidth]