Out of more than 100 scholarship applicants, Tittle & Perlmuter is excited to share the two winning essays.
Elijah Blakely’s Scholarship Essay
Driving down the highway, zooming to reach the correct exit. While traveling at speeds of 75 miles per hour, the driver decides that he must send a text. Taking his eyes off the road for the two seconds it takes becomes a moment of bad decision making. The car skids off to the shoulder of the road, spinning 360 degrees. “That was so close…” he says, shaking with fear. Sending that text had the potential of ending two or more lives. Young drivers in today’s world have numerous distractions, which prevent them from focusing on driving. They use cell phones, listen to the radio, and drive with more than one person in the car. These are distractions. Distracted driving is a growing issue among teens and young adults. Awareness and technology can address this issue.
Distracted driving is a relevant problem within the world, and especially with young adults. “Each day in the United States, approximately 9 people are killed”. More than 1,000 injured in crashes report involvement of a distracted driver. (The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) That is far too great of an amount of people dying from preventable accidents. Drivers under 25 are the main culprits of sending text messages and emails while driving. This makes them the main group of distracted drivers. (The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration)
“Drivers under the age of 20 have the highest proportion of distraction-related fatal crashes”. This is according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. I have witnessed distracted driving with my friends. My friend missed an exit on the freeway because of a distraction. As he plugged in the auxiliary cord, his attention left the most important task at hand – driving. Thankfully, a missed exit was the worst outcome and it wasn’t deadlier.
Ending distracted driving is a colossal task in a world of never-ending technological advances. Multi-tasking while driving is a hazard, and technology use is the most common temptation. Technologies that promise ‘the ability to multi-task,’ and make life easier inundates consumers. How often does a notification sound on a mobile device? How often does the owner check to see who or what it is? Society’s draw towards technology, towards finding out who is contacting who, is strong and incredibly dangerous.
This technology is not all bad if used to combat distracted driving by targeting its most dedicated users. “92% of teens report going online daily — including 24% who say they go online “almost constantly”. These results came from a study conducted by Pew Research Center.
Teens go online every day to utilize social media and the internet. An anti-distracted driving advertisement campaign would reach millions of teens and young adults across the country. In this way, technology becomes an extremely resourceful route to promote safe and proper driving.
Anti-distracted driving advertising campaigns should target teen and young adult mobile phone users. Seventy-five percent of teens have access to smartphones (Pew Research Center). Using this information, a campaign should present personalized advertisements on social media or music applications. This provides an extremely effective outlet to produce an anti-distracted driving ad campaign.
A television ad campaign could be a secondary campaign. From a study from Teen Health and the Media, “Americans spend about one-third of their free time . . . watching television”. Using an anti-distracted driving ad campaign on television can be just as effective, if not more so. Take, for example, the anti-smoking advertisement campaign. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention conducted research and discovered critical information. “The Real Cost campaign was associated with preventing an estimated 348,398 U.S. youths aged 11–18 years from initiating smoking during 2014–2016”. Imagine the impact an anti-distracted driving advertisement campaign would have on teens. Distracted, teenaged drivers cannot ignore messages that combine both television and social media to get the message out.
One last possible solution that would take advantage of profound usage of cell phones is a free application. An application that enables you to track your phone usage and driving time. Different methods of input would establish various options to ensure credibility of the information. Linking the cell phone and GPS network will track trip time and distance for potential routes, guaranteeing accurate vehicle usage. Adding to this information, the app will enable a cell phone usage log. The usage log will show what app the owner uses and when they viewed that app.
The app will also establish a parental setting in addition to the input of these statistics. The setting allows parents to disable their child’s cell phone at any time. The app will send parents a notification when these two measuring statements are active. Depending on parent preferences, the app can enable an automatic turn off if there is app usage while driving. With technology always adapting, this is an extremely feasible option to cut down on distracted driving via cell phone use.
Will these be effective routes to lower distracted driving? Persistence is key because the future is not predictable. The best chance of decreasing distracted driving is to focus on a lock down for the most affected age group. The age group is young adults. Clearly, there is a large amount of young adults driving distracted. They are too young to appreciate the severity of this issue.
Completely submersing yourself into a culture is a known way to effectively understand a new language. Similarly, distracted-drivers must see and understand the severity of their actions. Individuals should have exposure to the effects of distracted-driving on social media and television. This needs to happen before they find themselves in the middle of it. We can accomplish this, with time and diligence. The hard work to address distracted driving will pay off to help an entire generation prevent potentially horrific driving accidents. This will improving our nation’s safety while driving.
Sarika Ram’s Scholarship Essay
The numbers don’t lie. There is a self-control issue that is out of hand. Yearly, around 3,000 people die and 400,000 are injured in car crashes caused by distracted driving. The increasing number of those impacted by a distracted driving crash is directly correlated to the surge in cell phone use within the past decade.
Furthermore, the issue of distracted driving is one that I personally find important and pertinent, as it is, although widespread, particularly common among my peer group of teenagers. Statistically, 11% of drivers, 15-19 years old, involved in a fatal accident were deemed distracted at the point of the crash. While I do not engage with my phone on the road, I am far unaffected by this issue. I must continue this habit of safe driving, urge my friends and family to do the same, and express my perspective on current distracted driving legislation to local and federal government officials.
In response to the rise of distracted driving-related incidents, forty-six states and the District of Columbia have banned texting-and- driving. Unfortunately, these laws have not been influential due to the specific nature of their terminology and the difficulty of authorities to certainly convict a driver of texting-and-driving.
For example, there are exceptions to certain state laws, such as in Virginia. Virginia allows mobile use while stopped in traffic or at an intersection. These types of nuances in legislation’s verbiage result in enforcement challenges that lessen these laws’ overall efficacy. Other states’ laws are specific to texting-and-driving and do not ban all personal device use, so drivers are able to defend their distracted actions if they are, for instance, using a GPS app. Therefore, in order to certainly validate a driver’s texting-and-driving charge, the police would have to subpoena phone records as evidence. These tedious efforts, for a “minor traffic violation” result in tickets of $25-$400, which are rarely pursued. Therefore, texting-and-driving infractions go largely unreported.
The limited severity of the government’s rules and regulations demonstrate a necessity for laws to be repositioned in a way that yields greater compliance. In other words, law enforcement must change penalties and enforcement strategies to more harshly reflect the serious nature of texting-and-driving. In addition, mere recommendations to automobile manufacturers about preventative distracted driving measures must become mandatory standards.
This perspective is supported by expert research validating the effectiveness of the “three E’s” approach to successfully carrying out a law. These E’s, in order, include enacting a law, educating the public about the law, and thoroughly enforcing the law. Most states have the legislation in place, and the government has launched nationwide campaigns, such as the U.S. Department of Transportation’s “Faces of Distracted Driving” video series. Therefore, the lack of visible results from texting-and- driving legislation is a result of an enforcement gap. States with harsher penalties for texting-and- driving infractions and all-encompassing laws towards cell phone use have seen greater results among their drivers. For example, New York’s punishment for a texting-and-driving charge also includes points on a driver’s record, which potentially leads to higher insurance rates, and 14 states have banned driver mobile use under all circumstances.
Regarding enforcement, the nature of a texting-and-driving charge requires that police authorities be proactive. In some states, officers have taken to creative enforcement methods. These methods increased the number of reprimanded texting-and-driving law violators. For instance, a policeman in West Bridgewater, Massachusetts, navigates the roads on his bicycle to approach drivers at stoplights about their texting-and-driving infractions.
In terms of car manufacturers, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has outlined suggested guidelines for them to reduce the distracted driving risk of built-in hardware, like radios, TVs, and GPS interfaces. The most recent phase of voluntary guidelines suggests the installation of features like Bluetooth pairing, which connects a driver’s personal device to the car infotainment system, and Drive Mode, which simplifies a car’s user interface. While the implementation of these guidelines is proven to significantly reduce the time drivers in future car models will spend fiddling with their mobile devices, car manufacturers can ignore these recommendations at their own discretion. Therefore, in order for the government to guarantee that all cars in the future will be designed with precautionary measures in place, these guidelines must become compulsory.
Even with these legal changes, not all instances of distracted driving are appropriately identified and reprimanded because its occurrence is all too common. At any given time, 660,000 people are “using cell phones or manipulating electronic devices while driving at any given daylight moment.”
My friends and I go out of our way to be safe drivers. However, I’ve witnessed several troubling incidents of distracted driving. I have seen Snapchat stories of classmates who are recording the road or their friends while simultaneously driving.
My parents both suffer from a habit of using their phones as they are driving. My mother will usually check her text messages while stopped at a red light and make necessary calls while driving, and my father, as a landlord, is constantly in contact with tenants and laborers via both text and call. When I am in the car with them, I make sure that I’m making any texts and calls on their behalf to eliminate their distraction. While none of these instances of distracted driving resulted in a vehicle accident and the drivers I mentioned would consider themselves as “in control,” there is a statistically inevitable risk to distracted driving.
In recent years, distracted drivers began using proven personal strategies to take control of their dangerous habits. These include turning off ring and text tones, putting the phone out of reach or installing a mobile app, like Live2Txt and SafeDrive. While apps like Live2Txt completely block incoming calls and texts, SafeDrive rewards the driver with points that add up to discounts at participating stores and restaurants.
At the end of the day, the most effective and long-lasting solution to distracted driving is for drivers to personally take responsibility for their actions and set a standard of no tolerance for cell phone use behind the wheel, thereby influencing future drivers to do the same.
About the Author
Allen Tittle is the founding attorney of Tittle & Perlmuter. He is experienced in personal injury, medical malpractice, and more. His passion is representing his clients with vigor and ensuring they are treated fairly. Read More
Legal awareness sometimes called Public legal education, is the empowerment of individuals regarding issues involving the law. Legal awareness helps to promote consciousness of legal culture, participation in the formation of laws and the rule of law.
Public legal education, sometimes called civics education, comprises a range of activities intended to build public awareness and skills related to law and the justice system. This term also refers to the fields of practice and study concerned with those activities, and to a social and professional movement that advocates greater societal commitment to educating people about the law. Anna-Marie Marshall explains that "in order to realize their rights, people need to take the initiative to articulate them. This initiative, in turn, depends on the availability and the relevance of legal schema to people confronting problems."  This is because laws exist as part of a larger organizational ecosystem in which the interests of the organization as well as those of the actors become inextricably linked to the ways in which they are enacted.
Distinct from the education of students in law school seeking a degree in law (which is often simply called "legal education") and the continuing professional education of lawyers and judges (which is sometimes called "continuing legal education"), public legal education is principally aimed at people who are not lawyers, judges, or degree-seeking law students.
The term "public legal education" (PLE) is related to, and may encompass, several similar terms. The terms "public legal information" and "public legal education and information" (PLEI) emphasize a difference between educating and providing information. The term "community legal education" is common in Australia and the United States, where it often refers to community-based public legal education activities led by legal aid organizations. The term "law-related education" (LRE) usually refers to public legal education in primary and secondary schools (and sometimes in higher education), as opposed to PLE for adults and outside of school.
According to the American Bar Association, Commission on Public Understanding, legal awareness is, "the ability to make critical judgments about the substance of the law, the legal process, and available legal resources and to effectively utilize the legal system and articulate strategies to improve it is legal literacy".
The Canadian Bar Association (1992, 23) defines legal literacy as, "the ability to understand words used in a legal context, to draw conclusions from them, and then to use those conclusions to take action."
With little change to the Multiple Action Research Group's(MARG, an NGO working for the promotion of legal awareness) definition, legal awareness can be defined as, "critical knowledge of legal provisions and processes, coupled with the skills to use this knowledge to respect and realize rights and entitlements".
Thought, philosophy, and different approaches to legal literacy
The "continuum approach" considers legal literacy as, "a capacity spread along a continuum, with lawyers and judges at one end and relatively incapable laypersons at the other". This approach was adopted by the legal scholar White who considered legal literacy to mean, "that degree of competence in legal discourse required for meaningful and active life in our increasingly legalistic and litigious culture".
Author Bilder (1999) defines legal literacy as a, "spectrum of functional skills", related to the conduct of litigation. The continuum approach explains, "a certain degree of legal literacy is required for effective participation in modern society, but it is not necessary for the average citizen to reach the professional standard of 'thinking (and writing) like a lawyer.'"
One of the recent approaches considers legal literacy as a metaphor. According to this view, the term is "intended to suggest some parallels between the institution of the law, and a system of language to be mastered, knowledge gained and understanding achieved". These authors suggest that the term legal literacy can also function as a model for educators who seek to promote such literacy. Proponents of legal literacy may thus look to the teaching of language for guidance.
Need and importance
Anoop Kumar, a researcher of Legal Literacy Mission, says in his study, "the legislature of the state and the parliament, while enacting the legislation, consider the objectives of it. Some laws lay down the substantive rights of the masses and some touch upon the procedural aspect of certain laws. But it is due to lack of awareness of beneficiaries that most of the legislations are ineffective at the stage of their execution."
Legal awareness can empower people to demand justice, accountability and effective remedies at all levels. Legal needs always stand to become crisis oriented because their ignorance prevents them from anticipating legal troubles and approaching a lawyer for consultation and advice in time. This magnifies the impact of their legal troubles and difficulties when they come.
Without (legal) literacy people can get intimidated and alienated from law. This may evolve into a situation which results in people coming into conflict with the law, or being unable to obtain help from it. Courts have acknowledged the barrier raised by a lack of literacy to asserting guaranteed rights effectively. Low literacy may block people’s access to justice. At times, literacy requirements have been used to block access to rights and benefits
Goals and objectives
Goals of the legal literacy programs can be broadly divided in three types. Namely educational, competency and critical.
In Reading the Legal World, author Laird Hunter expects legal literacy to achieve: "People using the legal system must be able to guide themselves through a process that they understand [...] and, at appropriate places along the way"
- recognize they have a legal right or responsibility, in order to exercise or assume it;
- recognize when a problem or conflict is a legal conflict and when a legal solution is available;
- know how to take the necessary action to avoid problems and where this is not possible, how to help themselves appropriately;
- know how and where to find information on the law, and be able to find information that is accessible to them,
- know when and how to obtain suitable legal assistance;
- have confidence that the legal system will provide a remedy, and
- understand the process clearly enough to perceive that justice has been done
Depending on the goals there can be a number of objectives for legal literacy programs.
Methods adopted to promote legal awareness
There have been many cases where governments have promoted long-term legal literacy missions or awareness campaigns. An example of this is when institutions arrange legal literacy events.
Legal awareness is also achieved through camps, lectures, and interactive workshops or crash programs on the essential and elementary legal laws. Among the general public, many wish to spend time listening to scholars on contemporary issues that have significant bearing on the rights and livelihood of ordinary people. Other methods are road shows, radio talks, street and theatre plays, as well as the publication of relevant books, periodicals, posters, and charts that deal with particular laws, the distribution of pamphlets, brochures, and stickers, the display of paintings, illustrations in comics, and other ways to ensure publicity for various legal mobilisation activities.
Strategically located display boards in public places (railway stations, bus stations, market places, in front of major government offices and police stations) are also used to help government officials, police, and the public to understand the spirit of law.
According to Lorenzo Cotula, laws are usually published in the official gazette, few people outside legal circles have access to legal information. Illiteracy, economic barriers, language barriers, social taboos and a lack of zeal among the legal fraternity may lead to obstacles in gaining requisite levels of legal literacy. According to Hanna Hasl-Kelchner, at times lack of zeal among lawyers make them prone to saying no and killing a deal rather than working through the issues and finding solutions that are both practical and legally sound.
In a note to the UN General Assembly 67th session, the UN Secretary General states, "the deprivations that persons living in poverty encounter throughout their lives — lack of access to quality education, reduced access to information, limited political voice and social capital — translate into lower levels of legal literacy and awareness of their rights, creating social obstacles to seeking redress".
The absence of a legal culture and the resulting illiteracy are the main reasons for the large number of cases in the courts. If the accused citizen knows that an act is a crime punishable by law, they may not do it.
In the domain of law a vast category of users need to exchange legal information worldwide and carry out activities in a context where a common understanding of law beyond language is highly desirable. However, this requirement is hard to meet, due to the variety of languages and modes in which the legal discourse is expressed as well as to the diversity of legal orders and the legal concepts on which these systems are founded.
About lesser significance to legal literacy in US legal education, Leonard J. Long professor of law, Quinnipiac University School of Law says, "law students, law firms, consumers of legal services, and society as a whole would benefit from having a legal profession comprised and dominated by people who are literate in American law, its history, and its jurisprudence. But legal literacy is not promoted mainly because it is not viewed as necessary for the practice of law. This is part of the anti-intellectual tradition in American law generally, and in American legal education specifically".
Institutional and corporate legal literacy
Corporate, institutions and NGOs are subject to and are supposed to follow various sets of laws.
Corporate legal literacy
Legal awareness is an important part of professional work life. According to John Akula, when law-sensitive issues arise, corporate executives often find themselves in what is, for them, unmapped territory, often without requisite law training. When corporate executives work with attorneys they need to develop a common language to bridge probable communication gaps to achieve legal astituteness.
According to Hanna Hasl-Kelchner, legal literacy can help to bridge the gap between law and business by simplifying legal terms into language that makes business sense and offers a new way to think about the law as a useful business tool. She says, "corporate legal literacy involves balanced understanding of cross disciplinary influences bringing in legal risk exposure, avoiding lawsuits and transforming potential business legal issues that threaten growth and profitability, into opportunities for building stronger business relationships, delivering sustainable stakeholder value, improving competitive advantage and foremost embedding compliance into the corporate culture to achieve organizational excellence".
According to Hasl-Kelchner, corporate legal literacy tackles companies' legal risk profiles on both the employee and organizational levels. There is a need to identify the infrastructure needed to support legal literacy and promote effective communications throughout the organization.
Institutional legal literacy
George Pulikuthiyil, executive director of NGO Jananeethi in his essay Legal Literacy for Social Empowerment says that, 'Well educated and highly placed professionals too are often not aware of provisions in laws and implications of their violations. Many would not know the nitty-gritty of several statutory laws and their applications. ... However, the fact remains that vast majority of the officers and professionals like clinical psychologists, therapeutic counsellors, welfare officers, social workers, institutional heads and academia are ignorant of their role and responsibilities as contemplated in the Act. NGOs do take pains to organize workshops to sensitize them with respect to such new generation legislations wherein the pro-active role of various stake holders are great significance.'  George Pulikuthiyil further believes non-governmental organizations, community-based organizations, faith groups, various service providers, trade unions, youth clubs, police personnel, elected representatives to local bodies, PG students of social work and service organizations also have larger scope of improving the quality of life provided they are made conversant with respective legislations.
Designated legal officers
Apart from external legal advisors, internal legal officers and in certain countries like Australia and India, The company secretary is responsible for advising on good governance practices and compliance of corporate governance norms as prescribed under various corporate, securities and other business laws, regulations and guidelines made thereunder.
There are certain related concepts including legal consciousness, legal mobilization and legal socialization, legal empowerment, that helps to put legal literacy in perspective.
Civics and socio-legal literacy
Despite semantic proximity education of civics, civics literacy and legal literacy are not exactly the same. In the "legal literacy" semantic components are the dominant notion of the "right," "law," "responsibility to the law," and "civic literacy" added to them the concept of "civil society", "individual rights and freedoms" and "man's responsibility to civil society". In the formal civic education system, human rights can be taken up as a part of civic education, values education and social studies, though they may have the limitation of presenting only certain aspects of human rights rather than their integrated whole, and duties of citizens may be overly emphasized to the detriment of certain rights and freedoms.
At the elementary school level, usually minimal level legal literacy introduction is taught through civics, but which is not necessarily adequate for the rest of life. Applied legal education is imparted through business and commerce school and some other branches. News media also plays a part, but is unable to meet all socio-legal literacy needs. NGOs and legal aid centres may provide for limited legal literacy related to specific thrust areas.
Legal literacy mission
China conducts Nationwide Legal Awareness Raising Campaigns (NLARC) this five-year program has been conducted since 1986. National Legal Services Authority (India) conducted a five-year nationwide "National Legal Literacy Mission" from 2005 to 2010.
Legal literacy events and celebrations
Between March 20 to April 5 annual legal awareness celebrations take place in Australia. Australian Employee Legal Awareness Day is held annually on February 13. In India, National Legal Literacy Day is on November 9.
Internet and legal literacy
The Internet as a legal research tool is advantageous for most primary legal research materials, which can be located for free to supplement fee-based services and library collections. The Internet offers increased access to resources, low- or no-cost access, and real-time information via social media.
Author Roger Smith, an expert in domestic and international aspects of legal aid, human rights and access to justice; says in his article "IT changes bring hope – and hype", that Technology offers the opportunity significantly to cut costs and to leverage existing provision. Author Roger Smith further believes there is enough to suggest potential usage of internet and its interactive capacities of internet in information sharing. According Roger Smith (Internet and) Technology also opens up the possibility of providing ‘just in time’ public legal education which might just be the answer to the yawning gap in family law advice. Roger Smith further says 'technology can be used to construct a network of (online legal) provision which provides the level of legal advice and assistance to which people are entitled - even in times of austerity.'
Founded in 1992 by Peter Martin and Tom Bruce, Legal Information Institute (LII) a non-profit, public service of Cornell Law School that provides no-cost access to current American and internationallegal research sources online at law.cornell.edu is a pioneer in the delivery of legal information online. LII was the first law site developed on the internet. Public service of Cornell Law School promotes Legal Information Institute which in turn promotes Free Access to Law Movement and work on principles adopted at Montral declaration (2002 and amended subsequently); which advocates publishing of public legal information via internet.
In India, MARG(Multiple Action Research Group), an organization working for empowerment is using internet and social networking sites to empower netizens. The organization posts every Friday "friday facts" in their facebook, twitter & Instagram pages.These posts/pictures focuses on rights of the citizens and all other important information about laws in India.
Important institutions promoting legal awareness and legal literacy
Bar councils, lawyer federations and various NGOs take the lead in promoting legal awareness and legal literacy. In India, as per the Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987, the National Legal Services Authority (NLSA) has been designated to take appropriate measures for spreading legal literacy and legal awareness amongst the people.
In Indiana, in the United States, Outreach for Legal Literacy (OLL) is a community service program in which law students teach law to fifth-graders in local elementary schools.
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