Joel Feldman is an attorney and counselor in Philadelphia. After his daughter Casey was killed by a distracted driver, Mr. Feldman created EndDD (End Distracted Driving). He now speaks with teens, adults and businesses about distracted driving and what we need to do to end it.
April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month and this episode is Part Four of a four-part series examining distracted driving, and what we need to do to be safer drivers. Mr. Feldman provides some useful suggestions for teens and parents on how to be safer when on the road.
Distracted Driving is more than Cell Phones
The 58 year-old male driver who struck and killed Casey was reaching for his GPS device as Casey was crossing the street at an intersection. His statement: “I didn’t see her.” He had taken his eyes off the road to look for something in his car.
Mr. Feldman points out that the researchdemonstrates that 40% of distracted driving crashes are the result of cell phone use, with the other 60% from other distractions, including: eating, putting on makeup, shaving, and reaching into the back seat. Distracted Driving is the result of the driver doing something else while driving, at the expense of being fully engaged with the primary task of driving. The resulting costs can be fatal.
End Distracted Driving is Born
After sharing his story of his daughter’s tragic death with a state legislature deliberating a bill aimed at increasing pedestrian safety, Mr. Feldman was a short time later asked to speak about distracted driving to schools and teens. He soon realized that a better approach was possible. Children’s Hospital in Philadelphia, developed a presentation for Mr. Feldman and through EndDD, he now visits schools to talks about this deadly topic in a more proactive manner.
When talking with teens, his message is not a lecture; it is a discussion about a societal problem, not just a teen problem. One facet of the program encourages teens to recognize that they can be role models for their parents, siblings, and friends. When talking to parents, there are two possible approaches. One is to tackle it head on and ask: “Do you use a cell phone while driving?” Not surprisingly, some parents hold to the mistaken belief that because they are experienced drivers, their use of a cell phone is not a problem. Mr. Feldman has found that approaching the issue differently with these parents is more effective. He asks parents how important their teens are to them, and then encourages them to act as good role models for their teens.
Mr. Feldman encourages parents to enter into an agreement with their teens, pledging that neither the parents nor the teens will drive distracted, including using a cell phone. He points out that parents are not fulfilling their overall obligation to be good role models for their teens if driving skills are not included in their discussions. It is all about being the driver you want your teen to be.
Speaking Up as a Bystander
We all seem to think we are above-average drivers – which mathematically is not possible. Mr. Feldman asks parents how many think they are above-average and typically 70% or greater raise their hand. When he asks the question in reverse–how many think they are below average drivers—only 3 raised their hands.
One other facet of Mr. Feldman’s presentation addresses bystander intervention, to really consider how a teen can speak up as a passenger, friend, or even to parents. At first Mr. Feldman was hearing teens say, “My parents are doing it, so why can’t I?” However, now he is hearing, “I don’t have to drive like my mom or my dad, and I want to be a good role model for my brother and sister.” More teens are getting the message.
Recommendations for Safety
Mr. Feldman has two pressing recommendations to teens on the subject of distracted driving:
- Think about the independence you get when you have your driver’s license. With your independence, it is vital to make choices that make sense.
- Whether a driver or a passenger in a car, you need to assume responsibility in getting to your destination safely. It is important to speak up when noticing a behavior that could put everyone at risk.
For parents, Mr. Feldman’s primary recommendation is to go home and tell your child how important he or she is to you and enter into an agreement where both the parent and the child agree not to drive distracted. As he states, parents can send a powerful message when the parent declares, “I made a mistake and I want to change that and work with you so we both live long lives.”
Mr. Feldman finishes his presentations with a picture of a pond and its gentle ripple effect, reminding his audience that we each, individually, can make a difference. If each person who hears his presentation changes his or her behavior and then encourages a friend or family member to do the same, these positive transformations will ripple across the school, county, state and beyond.
In a few more days, Driving Distracted Awareness Month will be over for 2014. However, what isn’t over is the discussion and the effort to raise awareness. Don’t let this be the year where you didn’t make a change for the better. Make the pledge, talk to your teen, share this story and save a life. Don’t drive distracted.
What action are you taking to stop driving distracted? Let me know in the comments below.
Just A Few Seconds PSA
- EndDD Distracted Driving PSA – Parents Role Model
- Traffic Safety Guy Blog: Hands Free is not Risk Free