By Yuri Kim, 17, Beverly Hills HS
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Yuri says save a life and don't text and drive.

When I got my driver’s license last September I was really excited. Even though for the first year you have your license, you’re not allowed to have passengers under the age of 20, I ignored the rules and went everywhere with my friends—the mall, restaurants, coffee shops and the beach. My mom warned me that if I got in an accident, she would take my car away. I promised her that I would be careful. But I didn’t listen. Since everyone I knew, even my parents and friends, texted while driving, I didn’t think it was dangerous. I texted whenever I was at stop signs or red lights because I thought it was safe.

A few days before Halloween, I was rushing from store to store to find my butterfly costume. My friends were constantly texting me, asking what I was going to wear and where I was shopping. I stopped at a stop sign to reply to my friend’s text, “Where u at?” I texted back, “On my way home, where you at?” After I sent the message, I looked left and right to make sure that no one was there. As I was about to go, I heard my message ringtone and I looked down to read her reply, “What time are we meeting up?” As I was replying to that text, I pushed on the gas, assuming that no one was there since I had checked a few seconds before. Still looking at my phone, I drove through the intersection and boom! I hit a red Mustang.

Both cars were damaged

Illustration by Alison Lee, 15, Whitney HS (Cerritos)

We both pulled over and got out of our cars. Thankfully, no one was injured and no passengers were in our cars. The right front side of my car was dented and my bumper was starting to fall off. The left side of his car was dented. I started crying, thinking that this was the end of my driving days. Even though he hadn’t stopped at the stop sign, I felt as if it was my fault because I was texting while driving.

His face was bright red and he kept asking, “What were you thinking?” and “How old are you?” I was scared so I called my mom and told her I was in an accident. She asked me what happened and if I was hurt. She told me not to do anything until she got there and not to apologize.

While we were waiting for my mom, he was yelling. He called me a “b****” and said that I was too young to drive. He kept saying, “You’re so f***ing stupid.” He kept telling me that it was my fault. I felt like he was going to attack me. I didn’t say anything. I didn’t want him to get angrier. My mom arrived 40 minutes later. She ran toward me and grabbed onto me. Her hug made me realize that everything was going to be all right.

My mom exchanged insurance and license information with him, while I waited in the car. On the ride home, my mom gave me the silent treatment. I was afraid to say anything because I didn’t want her to be even more disappointed than she already was. I was shaken up and the accident replayed in my head. As soon as I got home, I went into my room and went to sleep. I didn’t want to talk to anyone about it. I didn’t want to be reminded of what happened because I didn’t want to think about the consequences. Was I going to get my car taken away? How much were we going to have to pay? (My mom took my car away for a few months but I got it back. And he ended up paying for everything because the insurance determined it was his fault.)

I got my friend to put her phone down

I realized that so many people at my school text while driving. Every time I leave the school parking lot I see all the juniors and seniors texting. A couple of weeks after the accident, I was in a car with my friends. My friend, who was driving, had one hand on the wheel and one hand on her BlackBerry texting with her head down while driving. I was nervous that we would get into an accident. At first, I didn’t say anything because I thought she would stop texting but she didn’t. Then I yelled, “Put your phone away! You remember what happened to me!” She ignored me. “Can you please text later? Is texting really worth risking your life for?” I asked. “Stop making a big deal, nothing’s going to happen!” she said. I told her, “It might not be a big deal now but you might get in an accident just like I did.” She ignored me again so I said, “You’re risking your life and ours and you’re going to regret it if you get in an accident or get pulled over! A text can always wait!” After a few minutes she apologized and said, “You’re right. I’m sorry. Here, keep my phone until we get to Chipotle.”

After that, I told my friends, “Think about what could happen to you if you text while driving.” I told them they could get seriously injured. It’s similar to being intoxicated because you’re not paying attention to the road. Most of my friends have stopped texting while driving.

Now, whenever I drive, I am more cautious. Before I drive, I set my phone to vibrate and put it in the glove compartment. When I hear my phone, I think, “Should I check it?” But I stop myself. I think of the accident and realize that I don’t ever want that to happen again.