Crawford Teen's Short Story Exposes Dangers of Texting While Driving

Scholarship Recipient

Edgar Snyder & Associates® Awards Allyn Propheter $1,000 Scholarship

May 15, 2014, Pittsburgh, PAMaplewood High School senior Allyn Propheter was selected as a winner of the Edgar Snyder & Associates "Words to be Heard" Scholarship Contest for her essay discouraging distracted driving. Propheter, a Centerville resident, received a $1,000 scholarship forJust Three Seconds, a short story that portrays two friends whose lives are tragically ended by texting and driving.

"Words to be Heard" challenges students across Western PA to create projects discouraging their peers from underage drinking, drunk driving, or texting while driving. Students had the option of submitting entries in the form of videos, PowerPoint presentations, websites, essays, or any other creative format of their choice.

Propheter's story sets the scene with two young girls heading to a party filled with friends, bonfires, iPhones, hoodies, and plenty of boy drama. On the way to the party, the main character, Haley, warns her best friend Melissa that she should put down the phone while she's driving, but she is quickly shut down:

"Melissa, your attention is diverted elsewhere when you text and drive. Think of what could happen in two seconds while you are looking at your phone. You could hit another car or even a person walking across the road. You don't know that nothing could happen."

The reply: "Whatever, let's just drop it. You're killing the party mood."

Hayley's character could easily be your friend, sister, or even yourself, and the reader grows more and more emotionally connected with her as the story develops. But the "party mood" doesn't last for long. Melissa ultimately makes the choice to text while driving home with Hayley, resulting in a car accident that instantly takes both of their lives.

"I have had a passion for writing ever since elementary school," says Propheter. "I found the scholarship application at the guidance office at my school, saw that we could do some sort of creative project, and thought, ‘I could write a story.'"

Propheter says that her eight-page story only took a few hours to write. "I imagined what it would be like for something like that to happen to me. I put myself in my main character's shoes… It just flowed."

Attorney Edgar Snyder, whose law firm helps victims of texting and driving accidents, personally presented Propheter with the $1,000 scholarship at an awards dinner Monday. This year will mark the 70th scholarship given by the firm, totaling over $100,000 since the program's inception in 2007.

"Year after year I am blown away by the new ways students present this message to make it resonate with their peers," says Attorney Edgar Snyder. "I think the biggest benefit to the students isn't the scholarship money itself, but the conversations started about the dangers of drunk driving and texting while driving."

With plans to attend Edinboro this fall for nursing, Propheter says she is excited for a new chapter of her life to begin. "A lot of times I will write just to release stress. I usually don't finish my stories, so I was surprised when I finished this one."

The winners of the "Words to be Heard" Scholarship Contest were selected during a luncheon at the offices of Edgar Snyder & Associates by a panel of judges who advocate teen safety in their communities: Debra Iwaniec, President of the Trooper Iwaniec Memorial Foundation and Health & Physical Education Teacher at Yough High School; Trooper Robin M. Mungo, PR Officer of the PA State Police, Troop B Pittsburgh; Brady Sheehan, Duquesne University Student and 2013 Words to be Heard Scholarship winner; Deputy Jason Tarap, Crime Prevention Specialist, Allegheny County Sheriff's Office; and Chris Vitale MSN, RN, Injury Prevention Manager at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC.

Propheter hopes that people who read her story will make not make the same choice as Melissa. "I just think, ‘why would you do that? Why would you put yourself in that kind of danger?'"

Six other winners were recognized for their submissions at the dinner ceremony: Zachary Nimmo of North Allegheny High School (Allegheny Co.) took home the grand-prize scholarship of $5,000. Three scholarships for $2,500 were awarded to Taylor Hanson of Greensburg Central Catholic High School (Westmoreland Co.), Ryan King of Bishop McCort (Cambria Co.), and Whitney Shetler of Chestnut Ridge High School (Bedford Co.). Two additional $1,000 scholarships went to Taylor Childers of Thomas Jefferson High School (Allegheny Co.) and Amber Machosky of Albert Gallatin Area High School (Fayette Co.).

View the winning entries and learn more about the Edgar Snyder & Associates "Words to be Heard" Scholarship Contest here.


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In Just Three Seconds

A Short Story Discouraging Texting While Driving
By: Allyn Propheter, Maplewood Jr./Sr. High School

The cool air of the early summer night rushed through the open passenger window as the red Chevy Malibu sped down the open highway. Haley and her best friend Melissa had finally graduated two weeks earlier and were ready for the best summer of their lives. Parties, beach trips, summer flings before college, gorgeous tans, everything in the book. It was ten-thirty and the two friends were heading to Mike Peters' grad party to have some real fun.

"Aren't you excited?" Melissa said, beaming while she turned up the radio. Katy Perry blared through the speakers and the bass vibrated through Haley's chest.

"Totally!" Haley yelled over the speakers, trying not to sound too distracted.

But Haley wasn't so sure if she was excited for the biggest party of the summer.

Almost always, Melissa would grab a few beers and go off with her boyfriend Nick to do God only knows what. So, that left Haley to either follow and become the world's biggest third wheel in history, or to mingle awkwardly and find someone else to hang out with. She usually chose the latter. Many of her other friends had asked Haley why she even came to parties if she didn't have as much fun as everyone else. Her quiet reply was always "For Melissa." After all, who would drive passed out drunk, puke covered Melissa home other than Haley? Certainly not Nick.

Melissa's iPhone 5 suddenly vibrated in the console, breaking Haley's reverie. The lit up screen read a message from Nick and Haley rolled her eyes in disgust. Nick knew that Haley hated him; she had made it perfectly clear since the week that he and Melissa started dating in 11th grade. Haley knew that Nick really didn't love Melissa. What had he ever done to show it? He never made sure that she was okay when she was drunk at a party; he never cared. He was too drunk himself to care. He bought her pretty jewelry and took her out all the time, of course, but he never was there for her when she really needed him. It was a mystery to Haley as to why Melissa put up with him.

"Nick says that he wants to talk," Melissa said nervously, making quick glances to her phone.

As always, Haley got a nervous pit her stomach as Melissa typed out a text to Nick. It didn't make her nervous that she was talking to him; no, Haley had grown used to that. It was the fact that she took her attention away from driving to answer a stupid text. It scared the crap out of her, to be honest. By that time, texting and driving had become a huge awareness thing, just as big as drinking and driving, if not bigger. So many kids in Haley's school got away with it unscathed (they did it all of the time, of course), but so many elsewhere didn't. Haley couldn't count the number of times that she saw those commercials with the loved ones of accident victims who spoke out about what happened when he or she looked at their phone for three seconds instead of the road.

"Melissa, do you really have to text him while you're driving? It can wait."

"Just hold on, I have to send him a quick message and then I'm done. I swear."

Haley just shook her head as she stared at the road in front of them, making sure that

Melissa wouldn't drive into the other lane or hit a deer or something. About thirty seconds later,

Haley heard the clunk of Melissa's phone hitting the console.

"Thank you," Haley said quietly.

"I don't know why you get so worked up over that. I'm just sending a text, Haley. It's not like I'm not aware of the road," Melissa argued while brushing her long, blonde hair out of her eyes.

"Melissa, your attention is diverted elsewhere when you text and drive. Think of what could happen in two seconds while you are looking at your phone. You could hit another car or even a person walking across the road. You don't know that nothing could happen."

"Whatever, let's just drop it. You're killing the party mood."

Melissa reached over and cranked up the already blaring music, making it it perfectly clear that she was done talking. They drove the rest of the way without conversing, just staring straight ahead. Haley was glad when they arrived; now she could blow off some steam and hang out with some of her other friends.

"Hey," Melissa said while slamming the car door, "come find me when you're ready to get out of here."

"Okay," Haley said casually while doing the same.

And like that, Melissa was gone, ready to find Nick. Haley could smell the stench of vomit, alcohol, and cigarettes as she made her way to the firepit. So many people were there, not just Haley's fellow graduates. Cute guys smiled at her as she walked by, some she knew, some she had never seen in her life. It wasn't long before she found herself in front of the big bonfire, staring at the crackling flames.

Haley couldn't understand Melissa at all anymore. All she wanted to do what talk about or talk to her boyfriend. It was almost as if nothing even mattered anymore except him. It was all Nick, Nick, Nick. No Haley. No family. Just him. Haley wondered if maybe this was just a phase that everyone went through when they began dating seriously.

"Are you religious?" a voice said, startling her.

Haley looked to her left and standing there was a tall, brown haired guy with his hands in his pockets.

"Excuse me?" Haley said, suppressing a laugh.

"Are you religious?" the guy asked again persistently.

"Why does it matter if I'm religious or not?" Haley asked, utterly confused. "Just answer the question."

"Okay.... Well. I suppose so. I was raised catholic. Why?"

"‘Cause you're the answer to all my prayers."

Haley burst out laughing and quickly covered her mouth out of embarrassment. Who was this guy?

"Hi, I'm Jared," he said, holding out his hand. Haley took it, smiling, and said, "I'm Haley."

"That's a really pretty name," Jared said with a grin.

"Thank you," Haley replied, shyly.

Haley couldn't believe her luck! A really cute guy was talking to her and even making her laugh! She thought about texting Melissa and telling her, but decided not to. She was probably too preoccupied with Nick to care about her encounters with attractive guys.

"Do you want a drink?" Jared asked her, gesturing toward the big cooler by one of the benches.

"No thanks," Haley said smiling. "I want to stay sober tonight."

"Sounds good to me too," Jared said with a crooked smiled and sat down on the cool grass.

Haley followed suit and plopped down beside him. "So, how do you know Mike?" she asked, looking at him.

"Our parents are good friends," he answered. "We were childhood friends too, I guess."

Haley nodded her head thoughtfully and pulled her legs up under her. The late night air was starting to get a little chilly. Jared noticed her discomfort.

"Are you cold?" he asked, taking off his sweatshirt. "No, I'm fine--" Haley started. 

"Here, take my sweatshirt. You need it more than I do." Jared interrupted, offering her his Under Armour hoodie.

"Thanks," Haley said, taking it reluctantly.

She pulled it over her head and was surprised at how soft and warm it was. It smelled like Old Spice and mint, a good combination. Jared's hoodie was obviously too big, but in a good way, and Haley liked it. It was comforting.

"So if you don't mind my asking, what are you doing here? You don't seem like the type of girl to go wild and party." Jared commented, gazing into the fire. Unlike all of the other times someone asked her this, Haley hesitated. Did Melissa really need her? She never really thanked her for saving her behind time and time again.

"Honestly, I don't know," Haley began. "I always thought that it was for my best friend Melissa, but I'm not so sure anymore. She always goes off with her loser boyfriend to make out or do whatever and just leaves me behind. The thing is though, she begs me to come to these things. It's like I'm just her designated driver/chauffeur and that's all that really matters." Jared was quiet for a moment or two. It seemed as though he was deep in thought. Finally, he spoke.

"I used to have this buddy who would hit up all of these parties and drag me along. My other friends would always ask me why I would go with him. I guess I just cared about him, you know? I didn't want to wake up one morning and hear from my mom that he died in a car accident or was lying dead in a ditch somewhere. I just wanted to make sure he was okay. So I'd sit around talking to the most sober person there while I waited for Luke to come staggering over and ready to go home. That's what his name was. Luke."

"Was?" Haley asked, turning away from the fire to look at him. "Uh, yeah." Jared murmured. "He died two years ago."

Haley didn't know what to say. She looked down and managed to choke out, "I'm so sorry." "Yeah, he aspirated after passing out one night. I came looking for him when I was ready to go and found him lying in the grass. I thought he was just passed out, but then I saw he wasn't breathing. I tried to give him CPR, but it was too late."

"I can't imagine how much pain you were in. I truly am sorry," Haley whispered.

"It's alright." Jared smiled. "I like to think that he's in a better place now." Haley nodded her head and glanced around. Girls were swaying drunkenly to Florida Georgia Line and spilling beer on their shirts. Guys were playing beer pong and yelling and laughing together. What a typical party. Suddenly, Haley's phone vibrated and caught her attention. It was a text from Melissa saying: I'm ready to go. Nick and I broke up. Meet me at the car in 5. Haley sighed heavily. Just when she meets a nice guy, Melissa has to parade in and ruin it. Haley stood up and brushed off her shorts.

"I'm really sorry, Jared. My friend Melissa wants to leave now of all times. I have to go."

Jared quickly did the same and pulled out his phone.

"I can take you home if you want. That's if you want to stay of course." Jared offered, turning his phone in his hands.

For crying out loud, Haley thought. Melissa was gonna get it.

"I'm sorry, it's just that her boyfriend broke up with her for the 30th time and she needs me right now. Not to mention the fact that she's probably intoxicated and needs me to drive her home."

"Oh, okay." Jared replied. "Well, I know we just met and everything, but I really want to see you again. Can I have your number?"

"Yeah of course," Haley smiled. "746-3597."

"Great." Jared beamed.

"Okay... See you." Haley trilled as she started to walk away.

"Oh, wait! Your sweatshirt," she said as she started to take it off.

"No, no. You keep it. It looks much better on you," Jared grinned. "See you."

"See you."

Haley kept looking back at Jared, who was still smiling. She could feel the butterflies fluttering in her stomach, even after just meeting him a little while before.

A few minutes later, she found the car and saw that Melissa was already inside. Haley cautiously opened the door and climbed in. Melissa was just sitting there, staring straight ahead, in silence.

"Melissa?" Haley asked gently. "Melissa, are you okay?"

Melissa said nothing as she gunned the engine and put the car in reverse. She numbly pulled onto the road and started to drive.

"Melissa, answer me."

"It's over." she sputtered, tears spilling down her cheeks. "Melissa, I'm sorry--" 

"No you're not! You don't care, Haley! You've never cared! You hate Nick!"

"Hmmm. I wonder why Melissa. Is it because he's the biggest jerk and low-life on the planet? Oh no, couldn't be could it?"

"SHUT UP, HALEY! JUST SHUT UP!" Melissa screamed.

Haley fell silent and stared out her window. Melissa had no idea. She didn't understand how pathetic Nick was. She would never understand. Suddenly, Melissa's phone vibrated in it's usual spot in the console.

"Melissa, don't you dare answer it! You're too upset right now. Wait until you we get to my house," Haley warned, looking at Melissa.

"No you don't understand, Haley! I need to answer it! He could be apologizing and wanting me back!" Melissa sobbed hysterically.

"Melissa, I swear to God, do not pick up that phone. Don't you dare." "I have to answer it, Haley, I have to!"

"Fine. Stop the car then and let me get out."

But Melissa didn't stop the car. What she did do was grab her phone and open Nick's text message. And sob.

"Melissa, so help me God, you better stop this car--"

But Melissa didn't listen. She stared down at her phone and typed away.

"MELISSA! STOP THE DAMN CAR!" Haley screamed. But Melissa didn't hear her. She just kept typing.


But Melissa didn't look out. And everything went black.

State policeman Eric Shaffer had seen many accidents, even at twenty-eight years old. They were always hard, especially when it came to breaking the horrible, devastating news to the families or loved ones. It pained him every time to see "the look" on the mother's or husband's or father's or whoever's face. Eric pulled onto the scene in his police cruiser and cut the engine. He took his ritual cleansing breath and stepped out, not really sure if he was ready to face what he was about to see.

Off the bank and a little ways into the woods sat a mutilated Chevy Malibu, smashed against a tree. He made his way toward the car, not really ready at all to learn what happened. Four fireman were sawing the doors off of the car to get inside. Eric shook his head in disbelief. He hated seeing this happen to people, especially young people. Within minutes, the doors were off and the firemen carefully removed the bodies from the front seat and put them on stretchers. Eric made his way over and discovered that they were both young girls, no older than eighteen. He swallowed the lump in his throat as he took it all in. Clutched in the blonde girl's hand was her cell phone, and Eric instantly had a guess at what happened.

Beside him, the paramedic checked both girls' pulses. "I got nothin'," he concluded.

"Both dead."

It didn't take long for the coroner to arrive and tell them all that the girls died on impact. They all made the conjecture that this was another texting while driving accident based on the cell phone in the driver's hand. Eric could never understand why these young teenagers even considered texting while they were driving; it was just plain stupid. Anything could happen in the three seconds that a person's eyes are off the road.

The chief of police gave orders to search the crime scene for ID and anything else to identify the bodies. Eric walked to the mess of the car and climbed in the front seat. Inside were the girl's purses. Bingo.

"Hey, you got something, Shaffer?" Chief Garrett yelled from his spot near the road. "Yeah, I think so. Looks like some purses. Probably the girls'," Eric answered, starting back up the small incline. Eric zipped open the first one, a red leather, and examined the contents. Inside was some makeup, a few packs of gum, some receipts, and, underneath it all, a wallet. Eric pulled it out and unsnapped it, instantly focusing on the driver's license. The name read ‘Melissa Jane Alden' and pictured a pretty girl with shiny blonde hair. What a shame, Eric thought to himself with a shake of his head. He slipped the wallet back inside the handbag and moved on to the second one, a black leather with fringe. Eric peered inside and found the wallet easily. He unzipped it and took out the drivers license. This one was of a curly, brown haired girl with the name of ‘Haley Renee Manning'. Eric noticed that both girls were only eighteen and made an educated guess that they had just graduated only weeks before.

Finally Eric found himself up on the side of the road with Garrett.

"Both girls were only eighteen, Chief. Found their wallets in these," Eric affirmed as he held up the purses.

"What a shame. So young, too." Garrett took the wallets from Eric, shaking his head. 

He took out his notepad and jotted down the addresses of both girls.

"How ‘bout you and Reed go break the news to the parents," Garrett concluded softly. Eric nodded silently as he took the piece of paper from Garrett. To him, this was the worst part of being a cop, telling families that their children or husbands were dead. It was impossible to express how sorry you really were when mothers or wives crumpled to the ground in sobs or thudded against the door frame to keep from falling. There was never anything he could do to comfort them; he could only leave them in peace to deal with their sudden grief.

Eric exhaled heavily and found Reed speaking quietly with a paramedic. He sought his eyes and nodded shortly, signalling what was about to come. Reed patted the paramedic on the back and walked towards him with his head bowed towards the earth. Soon they were side by side, walking in sync with each other.

"Are you ready for this?" Reed asked, scratching his head. Eric didn't really know if he was. It was so incredibly hard telling people that their children or spouses or parents were dead. It was the worst thing that he'd ever had to do. Eric fished out the keys to the cruiser from his pocket and climbed in, along with his partner.

"I don't think I'll ever be, Reed."

He turned the ignition with dread, knowing what was about to come.