On November 9th, all AHS students attended a Distracted Driving Awareness Presentation sponsored by Lear Corporation. The presentations were given by Joel Feldman, a lawyer from Philadelphia whose daughter Casey was killed by a distracted driver. Mr. Feldman has used the tragedy of his daughter’s death as a platform to speak to students across the country about distracted driving. Mr. Feldman’s presentation had a profound impact on the students.

Below is a summary of the topics Mr. Feldman presented to our AHS students.

According to the CDC, car crashes are the leading cause of death for teens with distracted driving now causing more crashes for our children than drunk driving. While about 20% of all crashes are related to distraction, when we look at crashes just for teens, that number jumps astronomically to 60%. Mr. Feldman’s presentation was timely and will save lives in our community. But distracted driving is not limited to our teens. As a matter of fact, teens text less when driving than those ages 19-24 and those 25-39.

As parents we need to model safe driving for our children

Mr. Feldman asked our students if their moms and dads drive distracted with them in the car. More than 70% of the students raised their hands. Had our children been in attendance they would have raised their hands as we frequently drive distracted. Many of those students said that even though their parents drive distracted their parents insisted that the students put down their smartphones while driving. Children whose parents drive distracted are more than twice as likely to also drive distracted. Here is a 30 second video that addresses why it is so important for parents to model safe driving for their children.

“I’m a safe driver, I have never been in a crash while texting.”

Mr. Feldman explored with students the most common excuses for why we text, read e-mails, put on makeup and access social media while driving. Just because we have not yet been in a crash while driving distracted does not mean that we will not be in a crash tomorrow, or the next day. Here is a a 30 second video that shows what happened when a woman took her eyes off the road to reach into a bag on the front seat. Her excuse for doing so was that she had never been in a crash.

“It only takes a few seconds to text while driving.”

It takes about 4 seconds when we look away from the road to quickly read a text. A lot can happen when we look away from the road for 4 seconds. At 55 MPH how far do you think we travel in those 4 seconds? Here is a 30 second video that gives the answer.

"If your moms and dads drive distracted you don’t have to drive like them.”

We listened to each of Mr. Feldman’s 4 presentations and each time we heard him tell our children not to drive like their parents, we felt very uncomfortable. We love our children and would do anything to keep them safe, yet we drive distracted with them in the car. Then he asked students to role model safe driving for their friends and little brothers and sisters, telling them that it was their job to do so since so many parents were failing in that responsibility. “Do as I say and not as I do” is not the way to communicate critical safety messages to our children.

Respect shouldn’t end just because we get behind the wheel of our car.

Mr. Feldman talked about respect and the kind of people our children wanted to be. He said that while most of us don’t want the guy in the car next to us to be texting, many of us will still text when we drive. We all want to be respectful of others and it’s likely that’s what we teach our children. He asked whether there was anything at all respectful about texting while driving while sharing the road with others. Our children correctly said “no.” Teaching our children to respect others must include while driving.

Casey’s friends and mother appeal to us to stop driving distracted.

One of the most compelling parts of the presentation was the 3-minute video that Casey’s friends and family made for the U.S. Department of Transportation. After describing Casey’s last words Casey’s mom asks “what will it take for all of us to stop driving distracted?”

What can we do today to keep our children safe from distracted driving?

• Enter into an agreement with your children, even those who do not yet drive, and commit to driving safer. Here is a link to a Family Safe Driving Agreement that you can use with your children:

• Go to settings on your iPhone and download “Do Not Disturb While Driving” which will block notification when you are moving. Android operating systems have an app that accomplishes the same purpose. •

More than 60% of drivers will put down their phones when asked by someone they care about. Speak up and let others know that you care about them. Just ask to end distracted driving.

We drove distracted and have committed to driving safer, for us, our family and all those that we share the road with. There are compelling reasons for every parent to stop driving distracted.

We can do this for our children, our families and everyone in our community.