2016 Insurify Safe driving scholarship winner

The Insurify Safe Driving Scholarship winner advocates against using a smartphone while driving. Read on for tips to help you avoid texting and driving.

Thank you to everyone who participated in the 2016 Insurify Safe Driving Scholarship! We received close to 300 essay submissions and enjoyed reading through every single one! We’re pleased to announce that the winner of the $1,000 scholarship is Nicole Ray. Nicole is currently enrolled in Brigham Young University’s Master of Public Health program. She plans to graduate in the Spring of 2017.


Nicole drew inspiration both from personal experience and research statistics to strongly advocate against using a smartphone while driving. Her experience not only educated her and her loved ones about the dangers of distracted driving, but will hopefully cause readers to also think twice before picking up their phone behind the wheel. The prompt specifically asked: What made me stop? Texting and driving is a serious risk. According to the National Safety Council, the risk of car crash increases 4x. Drivers using their smartphones aren’t just texting, there’s also the occasional email, Snapchat selfie, Instagram like or retweet. Tell us in 750-1,250 words about the moment that you (either as a driver or passenger) realized the risks of using a smartphone while driving?

This Distracted Driving Awareness month, Insurify has compiled a list of apps and tricks to help you put the phone down and keep your eyes on the road.

Congratulations, Nicole! Other students should stay tuned for future Insurify scholarship opportunities.

Think about it, it can wait

I can see the road in front of me just fine, especially if I hold the phone up out of my lap, I thought as I was driving down the highway. I’ll only glance at it for a second, literally one second at a time. I’m completely in control. I just need to look out for cops. I texted a quick reply to my friend. I had to tell her what time I would get home so she could start heading over to my house. We were going to work on a project for Spanish class together that evening. Then a Snapchat notification popped up from my boyfriend. Yes! I haven’t seen him all day long. I glanced back up at the seemingly endless and empty straight road and then back at his timed three-second long snapchat. Wow this takes talent, I naively mused.I can even text without looking at my phone. I just need to glimpse at it afterwards to make sure I typed it all out right. I can’t stand autocorrect sometimes! I looked down to fix my text and then right back up.

And then my heart dropped.

I found myself heading straight into the blinding bright headlights of a pickup truck on the other side of the double yellow line. I dropped my phone and immediately jeered to the right while my stomach crippled and my heart thudded viciously against my chest. Then just as suddenly, things went still and quiet as they were only a few seconds before– except that I was now driving a mere 35 miles per hour down the highway, gripping the steering wheel with both hands and white knuckles, my eyes wide and alert, and my perspective forever changed.

I realized that night as I continued my humbling drive home that I was not in control. Sure, I could text without looking, but I was still distracted. I still had to glance at my phone to make sure the text message was coherent before I sent it. For some reason, I thought I “needed” to quickly check a Snapchat from my boyfriend. What I thought was only one second of looking down was in reality, probably more than five seconds.

Five seconds is the average time someone’s eyes are off the road while texting. When traveling at 55 miles per hour, it covers enough time to cover the length of a football field blindfolded (Virginia Tech Transportation Institute [VTTI], 2009). That fact resonated with me thinking back to when I was driving 55 miles per hour that night while “glimpsing” at my phone. Furthermore, engaging in visual-manual subtasks (such as reaching for a phone, dialing and texting) while using a cell phone increases the risk of getting into a crash by three times (VTTI, 2013). This statistic cannot go unnoticed because it involves individuals’ fragile lives. I can’t help but be riveted by the graphic PSA videos that circulate on social media warning against texting and driving. They caused a short-term change in behavior for me.

I vowed in the moments after watching those disturbing, yet factual videos to never text and drive
again. However, weeks later I found myself rationalizing that I could check a text or two… or three while driving. Now after my close call, those videos take on a whole new, extremely real meaning in my life. The young girl in the video who crashed because she was texting could very well have been me that night. I am impressed with how distraction.gov puts it: “One text or call could wreck it all”.

Today I am an advocate for safe driving. I know the risks; I have felt the risks. When I am in the car with family or friends I let them check my texts and reply for me. I also let them choose the music and serve as my personal secretary when I receive a phone call. Additionally, I strive to be a responsible passenger by helping the driver use good habits while on the road.

Reflecting back on that evening when my perspective and behavior permanently changed, I realize how incredibly fortunate I am to have avoided that car wreck. I cringe at the horrifying thought of what could have happened to both the pickup truck driver and myself if that 110 miles per hour head-on collision would have occurred just because I had to send an unimportant text. I am forever thankful that I was safe that night and urge others to commit to driving phone-free today. One glance at a smartphone is not worth a life lost. Think about it, it can wait.

Updated August 23, 2018

Micaela Allen is a Boston-based writer and editor. Over the years, she has written over 100 original pieces for Insurify, focusing on trends in the insurance industry and financial advice for young and uninsured drivers. Micaela is an alumna of Northeastern University, where she majored in English.