Springfield dad who lost daughter to distracted driver makes plea to kids
Springfield’s Joel Feldman has given his distracted driving presentation to about 30,000 people over the last two years.
But the lawyer who lost his daughter in a distracted driving accident in July of 2009 will likely never know how many of those people, mostly teens, have been positively influenced by his story. He is a partner at the Philadelphia-based firm Anapol Schwartz and is the founder of End Distracted Driving (EndDD.org).
Feldman’s latest stop was at the Delaware County Technical School Friday morning where he spoke to about 75 students from different high schools who are in the Family Career and Community Leaders of America program. Feldman is hoping these students will take the lead when it comes to the distracted driving issue.
“These kids are leaders in their schools and they get things done,” Feldman said. “They can help get out the message that young kids can’t drive while distracted.”
Feldman likely got through to at least one girl in the audience. He asked the students if they rode with friends who texted while they drove. One girl pointed to her friend sitting next to her, so Feldman quickly brought them in front of the group. He wasn’t trying to humiliate or embarrass anyone, in fact, he thanked them for being honest.
But he also pointed out that most adult and teen drivers who text while they drive don’t believe they are going to be the person to get in an accident.
“We think it is not going to happen to us,” Feldman said. “I’ve represented people who have killed someone because of distracted driving and they all tell me, ‘I thought I would never kill someone through my driving.’ ’’
Feldman showed two short films in his presentation. One centered around his daughter Casey’s friends, about how her tragedy changed the way they drove, in particular, by not being distracted. Casey Feldman was killed when she was properly crossing a street in Ocean City, N.J., and a man driving a truck took his eye off the road for a second to reach over to his seat to get a GPS.
“With Casey’s friends, they had to think about death,” Feldman said. “Generally, young people don’t unless there is a tragedy.”
The other film centered on another woman who killed a man when she swerved off the road because she was driving distracted.
“It’s sad because each and every one of these tragedies is preventable,” Feldman told the students. “We think it’s not going to happen to us.”
Feldman admitted that before Casey’s accident, he too was a habitually distracted driver. He even told the story of when he purchased a new vehicle he became frustrated because he couldn’t program the GPS unless the vehicle was stopped.
“If everybody never texted again while they were driving, that would be great,” Feldman said. “But you can still be distracted.”
And according to a show of hands by the students, many of their parents do still drive while distracted. Feldman asked the group of about 75 if their parents drive while distracted and about three-quarters of the students raised their hands.
Part of his presentation is giving students a contract to take to their parents for each of them to sign saying they will not drive while distracted.
“I’m convinced people of my generation are slowly getting it,” Feldman told the students of not driving while distracted. “But for people of your age, it may be eventually be socially unacceptable. I was a terrible role model for my children when I was driving.
“Distracted driving is not just a teen problem. You guys are going to change the culture of the country.”
Feldman says he continues to travel the country to get the message out, having recently been to such places as New Orleans, Vermont and Iowa.
“I get a ton of feedback,” Feldman said. “For a father who has lost a child, I am really fortunate. I will probably get 10 or 15 emails just from today.”
By Jeff Wolfe, Delaware County Daily Times