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Shaelyn McDonald: 'Everyone has the right to feel safe and comfortable on the road.'

On July 14, 2018, my family went on a bike ride in our neighborhood.

My dad was in front, then my mom, me and my little brother. We were riding along a straight, quiet road.

Dad came to a side street and looked both ways. He saw no cars, so he kept going.

The rest of us got to the end of the sidewalk when we saw a Nissan Titan driving towards the main road from a cul-de-sac. I thought he would stop at the stop sign, but he didn't.

My dad was almost to the other side of the road before the truck hit him. He went flying six feet or more, landing on his back.

I remember screaming, my mom's look of terror, and my brother crying. I remember thinking that this was not happening, but it was real.

Since then, my dad has gotten better but required extensive physical therapy.

He was the one hit, but not the only one affected. I was 11 years old and refused to touch a bike; I refused to go on walks with my friends without a parent. Furthermore, I developed major anxiety, and I would even have panic attacks in or around cars.

Reckless driving is a huge issue. In theory, reckless driving is prevented by having effective policies and methods in place. Some strategies to prevent reckless driving casualties, according to the Washington County Transportation Safety Action Plan, are: "Develop a set of potential engineering solutions that could be implemented to help reduce transportation-related serious injury and fatality crashes. Develop community-based solutions to improve education and outreach to help reduce transportation-related serious injury and fatality crashes. Develop tools for law enforcement to more effectively and efficiently assist in ways to help reduce transportation-related serious injury and fatality crashes."

After reading this action plan, I believe implementing it is a crucial step towards lowering reckless driving cases.

Some other ways we can prevent reckless driving could include giving young drivers context about this concept in the classroom.

The driver that hit my dad was a 17-year-old. At Banks High School (and in all high schools), most students are new drivers or have their permits; however, we have no driver's education classes available at our school. Private driver's ed is expensive and hard to fit into people's busy schedules. Therefore, it's a difficult tool for families to access and this indicates a need for change.

I believe that education is the most important variable in preventing reckless driving.

According to a Jan. 18, 2022, article by OregonLive, pedestrian deaths are on the rise, both in Portland and across the state. For example, of the 63 deaths on Portland streets last year, 27 were pedestrians. Also: "Across Oregon, 581 people died in car crashes last year, a 15% increase from 2020."

Reckless driving is fluctuating between bad and worse, yet not a lot is being done about it.

Because reckless driving affects everyone, I believe everyone should know the factors for prevention. In summary, anyone can do something to help by advocating for high school driving classes, staying alert while driving, and knowing the strategies to prevent reckless driving.

Everyone has the right to feel safe and comfortable on the road, whether they are driving, biking or walking.

Shaelyn McDonald is a student at Banks High School. This essay was written and submitted to the News-Times as part of a class project, and it was one of several student letters and columns selected for publication.

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