Meet Catherine Molenaar, our 2018 Scholarship Winner!
High School Attending: Liberty Common High School
College Attending: Colorado State University for Health and Exercise Science
Catherine’s Winning Essay:
When I turned 5 years old, my family bought a triplet. My parents and I had always enjoyed biking as a family, so this rare bike with three seats was a blessing. We rode it everywhere together–to church, to dinner, to visit my grandparents–and riding it with my mother and father was one of my favorite pastimes. Sadly, one day my idyllic times spent on the bike were nearly brought to an end when I was 8. As we rode back from my grandparents’ house, we were passing through an intersection, having hit nearly every green light; however, our stroke of luck was wavering. Even now, I can remember how my pedals stilled instantly as I looked to my right and saw a sedan barreling towards us. I caught a glimpse inside the windshield, and the boy in the passenger seat and I made eye contact. He appeared just as petrified as I was; then, just to his left, was his father, whose eyes were locked on the screen of his cell phone. At the last moment, I saw the boy’s mouth open; the man’s face jolted up, and the car screeched to an abrupt halt.
I could not stop shivering for the following 3 hours.
Though my family and I made it home safely, we quite easily could have been killed that night. That sobering thought has given me a special appreciation for life and, more relevantly, the importance of driving safety. I have spread my story to all my friends, imploring them not to text while driving; I know that my age group is most susceptible to this unique temptation, and the statistics drive this fact home: 21% of teen driver fatalities were distracted by their cell phones. Even more sadly, 94% of teen drivers claim to be fully aware of the perils of texting while driving, yet a shocking 35% admit to texting at the wheel nevertheless. In fact, cell phone use contributes to 1.6 million crashes each year. This disconnect between reality and caution is staggering and extremely grave. Though the conversation about distracted driving has educated many, we have yet to see a sizable decrease in these preventable yet massively devastating collisions; I believe that sharing stories such as mine, close calls that were avoided by sheer chance but could have easily culminated in the death of an entire family, may bring to light the importance and constant relevance of driving vigilantly, without a cell phone to draw eyes and attention from the road.
Driving under the influence is another modern issue with sobering numbers. Colorado alone saw 4,431 DUI citations in 2017 alone, 504 of which involved fatalities. There are so many ways to avoid drunk driving–sobriety, electing a designated driver, taxis, drive-your-car services, pedicabs, public transportation, walking, transportation networking companies, staying until you’re sober, or even asking a friend or family member to pick you up. The choices are endless, and if it comes to the latter option, everyone has a contact who would far rather see the drinker get home safely at the contact’s own expense than endanger everyone on the road by driving erratically while inebriated.
Personally, I have plenty of experience offering my driving as an alternative to risking lives. As I am a pool manager, I am only 18 years old but the vast majority of my coworkers are over 21; though they are responsible adults, there are many occasions upon which they find themselves in a situation when they are drunk and unable to get home without being driven there. Since I assure my acquaintances that I will always make sure they arrive at their houses safely without jeopardizing both their lives and licenses, I am often the first person they think to call under such inconvenient circumstances. If I am at all able, I drop what I am doing–often at unthinkably early hours–and retrieve them from their locations, asking if there is anyone else who could use a ride home, and drop them off safely. Though this activity has cost me many hours of sleep and plenty of gas, the sacrifice is far beyond worth it to me; knowing that my coworkers and loved ones are able to secure rides home at any hour and will never feel obligated to drive while under the influence is an unparalleled feeling; knowing that I have the opportunity to give them this certainty is even better. While guaranteeing to be such a chauffeur may have its drawbacks, I am fully convinced that everyone has someone who would give anything to be sure he or she would come home in one piece; there is no excuse for drunk driving. There is always a far better alternative, and it is the responsibility of the drinker to secure a ride home without imperiling himself or herself and all the citizens who share the road with him or her.
The national and global conversations about driving while either drunk or texting have shone a light on how crucial it is to drive with undivided attention, but we have a long way to go. While I am on the road, I see plenty of half-empty beers in cup holders and cell phones clutched in hands, but I am proud to say that I have never participated in either dangerous activity. To prevent any temptation, I keep my cell phone safely tucked out of reach in the backseat while I am on the road; no phone call can challenge my life in importance. Though I am not yet of drinking age, I plan to volunteer as designated driver as often as possible, should the circumstances arise. To me, the security of my friends and family far outweighs any potential social drinking I could choose to participate in. My personal experiences with both perilous distractions have made me an advocate for safe driving everywhere; though sharing stories like mine is an opportunity far too many people have, more should elect to spread the word. A personal anecdote always goes further than a seemingly distant statistic. Though I and my family were lucky enough to so narrowly avoid a collision, many are not so fortunate; it is my duty, therefore, to help prevent other such devastating predicaments.