Published on the website of Diana DiZoglio, Massachusetts House of Representatives, representing the Fourteenth Essex district:
Posted on April 1, 2014
Diana [DiZoglio, MA House] in coordination with Superintendent Judith Scannell and local community leaders and teachers organized the first-ever End Distracted Driving Day for Methuen High School Juniors and Seniors.
Saba Hashem and President J. Michael Conley of the Massachusetts Academy of Trial Attorneys (MATA) presided over the presentation, offering statistics on the safety crisis and asking students if they were ever guilty of distracted driving themselves. Most raised their hands. Shown during the program were videos of drivers texting and engaging in other distracting activities at the wheel. More than 500,000 Americans suffer traumatic brain injuries in motor vehicle accidents annually, roughly 20 percent of which are caused by distracted driving.
Over the past three years, MATA has been the lead Massachusetts consumer advocacy group for distracted driving. This effort began following the tragic death of Casey Feldman, daughter of trial lawyer Joel Feldman, who was killed by a distracted driver. Joel created the Casey Feldman Foundation and EndDD.org (End Distracted Driving) in her honor and it is Casey’s passing that inspires MATA to continue its initiative.
“Distracted driving is a very serious danger to the community,” said Hashem, who is a resident of Methuen. “This is not only a teen problem, it’s everyone’s problem and it is important to empower teens to have conversations with their parents and other adults and their classmates and friends so we can end distracted driving. It is a threat to the community.”
“We need to build awareness of the dangers of distracted driving,” said Emily Stein, whose father was tragically killed by a distracted driver. “It’s not just a teen problem, it’s a problem for everyone of all ages. We hope they bring this issue home to their parents to discuss their parents’ driving habits as well. It’s also about encouraging teens to make safe choices. After all, there is nothing more important than their safety. This was a great event and the kids were amazing.”
“The presentation was outstanding, the message was clear to students that texting while driving impacts many people with very serious consequences,” said Superintendent Scannell. “The video as well as the guest speaker hit home. Let’s hope the message spreads.”
“The presentation was timely and most appropriate for both students and staff,” said Ann Marie Krusell, Department Chair of English at Methuen High. “The video clips, discussion points, and speakers made a profound impression on the audience with poignant and memorable moments. All were touched by the honesty of the presentation and the universal appeal, which resonates with every individual. Resulting in class discussions for the rest of the day, students attached personal meaning and resolved to make better choices. Wearing pink and black bracelets as they left the building, our school and community has embraced the true meaning of being “distracted” as they face the future being much more aware. We hope to make this an annual event.”
“I don’t think teenagers, even adults for that matter, realize the severity of distracted driving,” said student Adam Marchand. “It only takes a second of distraction to take someone’s life. It’s really scary.”
“I truly thought the assembly was very eye opening and very close to everybody’s heart, because we all know of someone who drives distracted and some of us are even victims of this as well,” said student Rima Rustom. “It was great to be reminded that we could and should prevent things like that, because if I don’t want it to happen to my mom or brother, then I’m sure no one else would want to either.”
“This is an issue of public safety and I am glad we had the opportunity to address the students in time for prom season and before summer break when they will be on the road more often. I want to thank Mr. Hashem, Mr. Conley, Emily, Superintendent Scannell, the amazing teachers and students of Methuen High and everyone else graciously in attendance,” said Diana.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), distracted driving means any activity that could divert one’s attention away from the task of driving. This includes not just texting or making phone calls, but any activity that’s liable to distract, such as eating or reading.
For additional information on distracted driving, please visit wwwEndDD.org.