Del BeneHaving a driver’s license gives you ultimate freedom to go anywhere you want. No more carpooling and catching rides to where you need to be. It’s just you and your freedom — almost.

As a recently licensed driver, I have come to realize just how relevant and dangerous distracted driving is.

To some, a cellphone is a simple device, used to make and receive calls and occasional text messages. To many teenagers, their cellphone is their life. From texting constantly, catching up on social media and playing games, it’s nonstop phone use.

Not only are phones affecting how we interact socially, they also can be a major distraction while driving.

When you are behind the wheel and look down at your mobile device, you take your eyes off the road.

That can result in a fatal accident or a severe bodily injury.

Although we think reading a message takes only a few seconds, those seconds still make a difference.

An average of five seconds is generally the amount of time your attention is off the road when you use a mobile device. It’s easy to think that those five seconds are almost nothing. But when it comes to driving, staying focused can ultimately prevent you from being injured in an accident.

We all multitask at some point or another, whether it’s considered safe or not. There are appropriate times to multitask. Using a cellphone while driving is not one of them — as proven by the number of accidents and deaths each year due to multitasking while driving a motor vehicle.

Driving is a very demanding task that requires all your attention. Looking at your cellphone to check a message could result in a fatal accident. I asked 15 people if they had ever been in a car where the driver, or where they themselves as the driver, used a mobile device while driving.

The results, unfortunately, didn’t fail to surprise me. All 15 people said yes, they have been in the car where the driver was using a cellphone.

One said, “You can easily tell it inhibits the driver’s ability to focus. I know the law says that at 18 you are legally allowed to use a hands-free device to make phone calls, but I think that no phone use should be acceptable at any age because of how dangerous it is.”

When I was in middle school transitioning to high school, I saw obtaining a driver’s license as a right you have as a 16-year-old. It didn’t take much for me to realize that driving is essentially a privilege, not a right.

By looking at websites with alarming statistics and from observing other drivers around me, it became clear to me that driving while using a cellphone is extremely harmful and should never be taken lightly.

Jacqueline Del Bene is a sophomore at West Linn High School. She is contributing a regular column to the Tidings this school year.

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