It can wait

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

For the second consecutive year, Carroll County Newspapers is sponsoring an essay contest on texting while driving. We offered the contest to Eureka Springs students last year through the Lovely County Citizen, and Iím super excited to branch out to the rest of the county. This year, anyone in Carroll County between 14 and 19 can enter the contest.

The rules are simple: Write a 300-500 word essay on why itís important to take the It Can Wait pledge to never drive distracted. The writing should highlight the dangers of smartphone distracted driving and must include the following call to action: ďTake the pledge to never drive distracted at ItCanWait.comĒ

With the contest expanding countywide, weíve increased our prize money, too. The first-place winner will receive $700, with second place taking $400 and third place taking $300. Thatís thanks to all our sponsors in Carroll County. I canít express how grateful I am to have Suzette Jackson Insurance, Anstaff Bank of Green Forest, K-Way Auto, Arvest Bank of Eureka Springs, Clay Maxey Ford, Windle & Associates, Crescent and Basin Park Hotels, Cox Communications, Equity Bank of Eureka Springs, Equity Bank of Berryville, Teigen Insurance and Harts Family Center support this contest and all the good it can do for our countyís young people.

Distracted driving is dangerous. I think most of us could agree on that, but we also know how easy it is to pick up the phone to check a text. We like to think we can multitask on the road, that itís not a big deal to play with our phones while navigating 4,000 pounds of metal around other cars and pedestrians. It is a big deal. In many cases, itís life or death.

Though Iíve never been personally affected by texting and driving, Iíve written stories about young people who died doing it. Thatís certainly my least favorite part of this job. When a young person dies because of texting and driving, we donít just lose their life. We lose their potential. We lose their future.

Of course, teenagers arenít the only people who text and drive. I know many adults, including myself, who tinker with their phone while on the road. I used to change the music on my phone until my husband asked me to stop. He said he wanted me to be safe on the road, and I couldnít deny him that request. Since then, Iíve made playlists for long road trips and have refused to touch my phone unless Iím at a rest stop. Iím not sure if Iíve saved any lives by making that decision, but I sure feel safer because of it.

At the end of the day, we should all feel safe on the road. Itís important for young people to speak up about that and to influence their friends who might practice the same distracted driving I used to. To all the teenagers in our county, I sure hope you take the opportunity to enter our contest. Youíll be standing up for whatís right. All three winning essays will be published in the Carroll County News and the Lovely County Citizen, so I know your words will help somebody in our community.

The contest is sponsored at the state level by AT&T and the Arkansas Newspaper Foundation. The winner of the state contest will take home even more money, as well as a trip to Little Rock. Our local winner, Elizabeth Loudermilk, won the state contest last year. Sheís proof that this contest is invaluable to our community.

You can enter by emailing me at Citizen.Editor.Eureka@gmail.com. I look forward to all your submissions.

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Samantha Jones is associate editor for Carroll County Newspapers. Her email address is†Citizen.Editor.Eureka@gmail.com.