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Preventing Teen Distracted Driving Crashes – The American Association for Justice’s New Lawyers Division

Today, much of my professional time is spent developing and presenting educational programs to reduce distracted driving tragedies. I started shortly after my daughter Casey was killed by a distracted driver in 2009. She was killed when she was 21 and she would be 28 years old today, had she lived. Immediately after Casey’s death I had feared that she would be forgotten and that her short life would not have made a difference in the world. Because of all the support I have received I no longer have that fear.

Most recently that support came from the New Lawyers Division (NLD) of the American Association for Justice (AAJ) . The NLD is a group of incredibly motivated, passionate and compassionate trial lawyers who have been in practice less than 10 years. These lawyers are among the best and brightest trial lawyers and they also care deeply about others. They regularly undertake a number of service projects, volunteering to make a difference in their communities and across our country. Their most recent project is doing high school distracted driving presentations through EndDD.org.

At AAJ’s February mid-winter convention in Austin, NLD lawyers spoke at 4 different high schools, giving 7 different EndDD.org presentations to more than 750 teens. I was proud to present with some of the NLD members, including Katie Hubbard from Missouri, Jenn Lipinski from Florida, Domenick Sanginiti from New Jersey and Leslie Pescia from Alabama. Also presenting at other schools were Rachel Gusman from Oklahoma, and some long-time AAJ members John Bair from New York, Jess Hoerman from Illinois, Wayne Parsons from Hawaii and AAJ President Julie Kane from Florida. Melissa Hague, my law partner from Pennsylvania and Chair of the NLD and Shannon Pennock from New York, really worked hard to help schedule these talks.

The first day I spoke with Leslie Pescia at Westlake High School. These were Leslie’s first talks. As I watched her speaking to the members of the Westlake High School football team I had a mix of emotions-pride, happiness, satisfaction, pain and sadness. I was proud, happy and felt great satisfaction that the presentation was so well-designed and adaptable that others could step right in and do it, and do it remarkably well. Leslie was so comfortable speaking in the auditorium, so articulate and genuine and so well-received by the 9th, 10th and 11th grade boys. They listened attentively, were moved, and I know some teen lives were saved as a result. I was so proud of her and started thinking about Casey.

Casey and Leslie were born just a few months apart and Casey would be a contemporary of many of the NLD members. It was sad and painful contrasting Casey and what would never be, with all that another intelligent, accomplished young woman was able to achieve for herself, and likely would achieve in her future. As a father I took immense pleasure in watching Casey’s career develop and looked forward to many proud moments in the future. But Casey has no future, is not living her life and is not creating new memories for her and for those who love her. At times it is painful watching other young people live their lives fully knowing that Casey cannot.

Later that day I saw Katie Hubbard and Dominick Sanginiti speak to other students at Westlake High School and the following day I spoke with Jenn Lipinski and Wayne Parsons at Regan Early College High School. All of the speakers connected so well with the students. Many of our volunteer speakers have said that doing these talks is one of the best things they do as a trial lawyer.

It was an incredible effort in Austin but even before Austin NLD members were out doing talks across the country in Florida, Tennessee, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania and New Jersey. And more talks are scheduled over the next few months all across the country. Collectively, trial lawyers will speak with close to 100,000 students before school ends in June. Every time an NLD member, or other member of AAJ, does a presentation I know Casey is being remembered and lives are being saved in her memory. Remembering Casey is so important to me.

There is no getting over the loss of a child and I won’t argue with those who say that the death of a child is the worst possible loss. I am not fortunate for why I started working to end distracted driving , yet I consider myself incredibly fortunate in the aftermath of Casey’s death for I have received so much support over the years from so many. I know that death only ends a life and not a relationship and my relationship with Casey changes as I change. From time to time I speak with Casey, letting her know what I am doing and how I am doing. I am comforted by knowing that good is coming from her death. I smile when telling her about all the trial lawyers, especially the NLD members, telling her story to save lives. I know she is happy to be remembered in such a special way.

Joel & Casey, Dec. 2008 Joel & Casey, Dec. 2008
*Joel Feldman is the father of the late Casey Feldman and founder of the Casey Feldman Foundation and its sponsored project, EndDD.org. He has been a practicing attorney for 34 years and a shareholder in the law firm of Anapol Schwartz in Philadelphia. He received a masters in counseling in 2013 and speaks throughout the U.S. and Canada to teens and adults, changing attitudes and behaviors through the science based, End Distracted Driving program. Joel also provides death notification training to law enforcement and the medical community. Joel can be reached at Info@EndDD.org.