Texting in the Fast Lane

As technology becomes more closely tied to our daily lives, a growing problem for young drivers is using gadgets while behind the wheel. Cellphone texting is distracting and endangering the lives of its users. A group being seriously affected is teenage drivers who despite being new to driving are risking it all to send that “important” text message while on the road.

Most teens think that they are invincible. They have the attitude that it can happen to others, but not them. In my generation, we are completely overwhelmed with technology. It seems almost impossible to put your phone down to concentrate on one thing. One second you are glancing down at your phone rather than at road can change everything. Ignoring the warning signs and living in an “it could never happen to me” attitude, teens are often surprised at almost colliding with another vehicle when looking down at their cell phones for a split second.

A report from the Pew Internet & American Life Project found that 26% of all American teens 16-17 have texted while driving, and 43% have talked on a cell phone while driving. Texting while in the use of a moving vehicle has become one of the leading causes of death for people within the ages of sixteen to twenty, accounting for more than five thousand deaths each year according to a study reported by lifescience.com. They also reported that another study done by the University of Utah, simulated young drivers texting while driving and found that they ran over virtual pedestrians, went in and out of their lane and were extremely distracted.

Several teens have told me their stories of near encounters because of using their phone while driving. Driving his vehicle on the Border Highway in West Texas, 17-year-old Luis Oliveros said he almost side-swiped another vehicle because he was checking his phone exiting the off-ramp. “I was driving on the highway and I took the exit off, but I was checking my phone at the same time,” said Luis. “When I got off the 375, I was going to switch lanes, but another car was coming that I hadn’t noticed because I was using my phone…I only noticed it because [the driver] honked and I swerved to my left to avoid hitting it.”

Rainelle Espinoza, age 17, almost fell victim to her distraction, while driving when she reached down to grab the cell phone she let slip from her hand. Her vehicle started to veer to the next lane, but Rainelle “quickly reacted” and was able continue her commute unharmed.

Many tales of “close call” exist for teens who decide to text message while behind the wheel. Amanda Guzman said her turning point came after a situation similar happened to her. “The fact that I had to slam on my brakes hard changed everything,” the 19-year-old said, adding that she’s trying to be a safer driver.

The split second it takes for a driver to take their eye of the road makes a drastic difference when looking at the statistics and research done. Driving demands responsibility, concentration and focus. To give the situation what it demands you can’t be doing anything other than driving. Remember no one is above this; everyone has the chances of being in an accident. You can help eliminate those chances by being a safe driver and not use your phone, mp3 player or have any other kind of distractions around while driving.

July 2010

Three Generations

One of my favorite memories growing up was when I was a little girl sitting at the kitchen table looking up at my mom and grandmother as they made tamale. I remember the masa leaving globs of off-white goo on the table, while everyone around the table shared their stories, memories and happy tales. Now, I take place in the tamale making process with at least three generation of Hispanic women in one of the longest traditions taking place in my family.

My mom and grandma would tell me how they made the tamales when they were younger and how their mother would teach them how to make them just right. Now, I am starting to learn how to make them just right as well. “When I was your age and helped my mom make tamales, we went a whole different route” said my mom, Maria, right before she started explaining the differences. They had to make their own masa, chile, and any other ingredients needed from scratch. They did not buy anything already pre-made for them. When I found this out, I suddenly became grateful to know that we take the “short cut” in the making process. I cherish these moments the most.

My grandma Julie as well shared the traditions with with her own mother and now we spend time on the holidays with her. She says “having my sons and their families come over every year to continue a tradition that was started by your great grandma is one of the best parts of the year that I truly look forward to.”

My grandma also speaks of Dia de los Muertos. She would take all her daughters across the border to Mexico, and they would clean up the tombstone and burial area for her mom, my great grandma. “Even if they had school that day, I would call then in sick so that they can continue and experience the tradition,” said my grandma Grace. They would then celebrate, make altars, listen to mariachi and enjoy the great celebration. This tradition was great but over the years and generations the tradition has changed. I learned how it was celebrated and how the process takes place, but I have not really taken part in the tradition.

Another tradition that my family celebrates is el Día de los Tres Reyes Magos, or Three Kings’ Day. This tradition usually takes place at my grandma’s house with the whole family there. We would buy a rosca. For several years, I would be one of the family members to find the little toy baby in the pastry. The tradition goes as follows: the kids in the family would leave their shoes out and in the morning they would find small gifts in them. That part of the tradition we never did in my family. The important part of this tradition is spending time with the family.

The Hispanic culture is rich and thriving, having many traditions taking place all year long. Family togetherness and happy memories make the simple traditions in the culture continue living from one generation to next.

February 2010