The Face of Distracted Driving Q+A w Joel Feldman
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The Face of Distracted Driving Q+A w Joel Feldman

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Joel Feldman of The Casey Feldman Foundation and EndDD.org shares his personal experience of loss and the impact he hopes his efforts will make on putting an end to the growing danger of distracted ...

Joel Feldman of The Casey Feldman Foundation and EndDD.org shares his personal experience of loss and the impact he hopes his efforts will make on putting an end to the growing danger of distracted driving

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    The Face of Distracted Driving Q+A w Joel Feldman The Face of Distracted Driving Q+A w Joel Feldman Document Transcript

    •        The  Face  of  Distracted  Driving     Joel  Feldman  of  The  Casey  Feldman   Foundation  and  EndDD.org  shares  his   personal  experience  of  loss  and  the  impact  he   hopes  his  efforts  will  make  on  putting  an  end  to   the  growing  danger  of  distracted  driving.       Pennsylvanias  text  ban  has  been  law  for   nearly  a  full  month  now,  but  its  safe  to  say   that  drivers  of  all  ages  are  pushing  the  limits.   Certainly  the  somewhat  defiant  behavior   being  witnessed  on  the  roads  and  highways   here  in  Philadelphia  is  happening  all  over  the   country,  and  for  most,  it  wont  stop  until  a   ticket  gets  handed  to  them,  or  worse.   Distracted  driving  is  not  a  made-­‐up  problem.   The  people  behind  the  cause  are  not  fanatics.  Many,  though  not  all,  are  parents  or  siblings  of  individuals  that  died  or  were  severely  injured  in  driving  accidents.  Plenty  of  them  are  kids  and  teenagers,  who  watch  their  parents  text,  eat,  engage  in  business  conversations,  change  the  radio  station,  read  email,  even  put  on  makeup,  all  while  navigating  the  roadways.  Youve  done  it,  weve  done  it.  Even  Joel  Feldman,  father  of  Casey  Feldman,  who  died  in  2009  after  being  hit  by  a  distracted  driver,  did  it.    Ever  since  losing  his  daughter,  Feldman  has  dedicated  his  time  and  energy  to  changing  not  just  his  behavior,  but  also  all  of  our  behavior.  And  its  not  just  because  he  wants  to  infringe  on  others  sense  of  freedom,  or  invite  the  government  into  another  area  of  our  lives;  he  simply  wants  to  help  protect  other  families  from  suffering  the  loss  of  a  loved  one,  at  least  at  the  hands  of  a  distracted  driver.    In  the  coming  months,  youll  be  hearing  a  lot  more  about  Feldman,  The  Casey  Feldman  Foundation  and  EndDD.org.  Along  with  partner,  60  for  Safety,  EndDD  is  leading  a  national  campaign  in  April,  National  Distracted  Driving  Awareness  Month,  that  will  reach  more  than  100,000  students  in  one  week,  and  kick  off  an  ongoing  safety  and  awareness  campaign  that  will  continue  throughout  2012  and  beyond.    Click  here  for  more  information  on  this  international  Student  Awareness  Initiative,  and  please  follow  us  on  Facebook  here  and  here,  and  also  on  Twitter.        
    • How  has  the  creation  of,  and  your  involvement  with,  the  Casey  Feldman  Foundation  (CFF)  impacted  your  ability  to  try  to  adapt  to  the  tragic  loss  of  your  daughter  and  stay  engaged  in  the  present?    JF:  Immediately  after  the  accident,  and  for  quite  some  time  thereafter,  you  are  devastated.  You  are  numb,  in  disbelief,  and  can’t  see  how  you  are  going  to  survive  without  your  child,  or  that  it  is  worth  living  at  all.  You  cant  imagine  that  youre  here,  but  your  child  is  not.  Just  about  every  day—even  3  years  later—I  think  about  the  life  Casey  should  be  living.  Kids  are  supposed  to  bury  their  parents,  not  the  other  way  around.  After  some  time,  with  the  support  of  friends  and  family,  you  begin  to  come  around  and  see  that  you  will  survive—for  me  that  I  had  to  survive  for  my  wife  and  other  child-­‐they  were  entitled  to  a  life  and  to  somehow  find  some  joy  in  living.  Slowly  I  realized  that  Casey  would  be  forgotten  if  we  did  not  do  something  that  allowed  others  to  remember  her—something  that  would  make  a  difference.  The  tragedy  of  Casey’s  death  would  be  far  worse  if  nothing  good  came  about  following  her  death.  Creating  the  foundation  is  one  way  that  Caseys  friends  and  family  can  remember  her.  And,  its  my  way  of  moving  forward  and  trying  to  adapt  to  a  world  without  my  daughter.          When  did  you  decide  to  launch  EndDD.org  and  why?    JF:  After  we  produced  the  Public  Service  Announcement  (PSA)  for  the  Department  of  Transportation,  we  were  asked  to  participate  in  a  few  programs  that  brought  us  in  contact  with  other  parents  and  safety  officials  involved  in  similar  causes.  What  we  noticed  was  that  while  there  were  many  like-­‐minded  groups,  some  concerns  were  not  being  addressed.  We  also  noticed  that  people  were  moved  by  Casey’s  story  and  committed  to  change  after  hearing  us  speak  about  Casey  and  the  circumstances  of  her  needleless  and  senseless  death.  We  wanted  to  do  our  part  to  ensure  that  traffic  safety  would  become  a  national  priority.          What  are  you  short-­‐term  and  long-­‐term  goals  for  CFF  and  EndDD.org?  JF:  Spreading  our  message  to  as  many  drivers  as  possible,  and  lowering  the  number  of  injuries  and  deaths  due  to  distracted  driving  is  our  No.1  priority.  One  of  our  biggest  goals  for  2013  is  to  push  a  hand-­‐held  cell  phone  ban  in  Pennsylvania.  Another  is  to  host  a  "summit"  event,  where  families  whove  lost  loved  ones  to  distracted  driving  can  work  together  to  create  a  plan  of  action  for  legal  change.  But  because  Casey  volunteered  for  several  charitable  organizations,  including  a  no-­‐kill  animal  shelter,  a  soup  kitchen  and  a  homeless  shelter,  our  mission  also  includes  providing  financial  aid  to  high  school  and  college  students  to  help  them  discover  the  importance  of  volunteerism  and  community  service.  One  of  our  newest  projects  that  we  have  started  with  funds  raised  through  the  CFF,  is  to  help  small  local  non-­‐profits  with  their  technology  needs.  These  non-­‐profits  don’t  have  the  funds  or  personnel  to  write  e-­‐newsletters  and  blogs,  engage  in  social  media  and  beef  up  their  Internet  presence.  As  a  result,  their  missions  suffer.  So  we  have  set  up  a  stipend  program  at  Villanova,  through  the  computer  science  department,  that  matches  students  with  charities  that  need  tech  help.  This  program  is  really  encouraging  and  we  are  looking  to  expand  it  to  other  universities  and  colleges.  We  also  have  supported  students  who  devote  their  spring  breaks  to  performing  service  across  the  
    • country  through  the  Alternative  Spring  Break  program.  Trips  have  included  New  York  City  to  feed  the  homeless,  Woodstock,  NY  to  work  at  a  No  Kill  Animal  Shelter,  Cincinnati  to  help  the  homeless  and  New  Orleans  to  aid  Katrina  victims.  Additionally,  each  year  on  July  17th,  the  anniversary  of  Caseys  death,  we  host  a  Day  of  Service  and  Remembrance  at  the  Francisvale  Home  for  Smaller  Animals  in  Radnor,  PA.          Can  you  tell  the  progress  EndDD  and  CFF  are  making?  JF:  The  number  of  calls  we  are  getting—3-­‐4  a  week—from  schools  all  over  the  country  requesting  distracted  driving  presentations  is  certainly  one  indicator  that  our  message  is  spreading.  The  number  of  Facebook  followers  on  both  of  our  community  pages  is  steadily  growing,  and  were  establishing  more  and  more  relationships  with  individuals  and  organizations  that  have  heard  about  us.  The  surveys  that  we  are  using,  developed  by  the  researchers  at  Children’s  Hospital’s  Injury  and  Research  Prevention  Center  (CIRP),  indicate  that  teens  are  changing  their  driving  behaviors,  and  also  speaking  to  mom  and  dad  and  getting  them  to  change  the  way  they  drive.    What  impact  are  you  trying  to  make  during  April’s  National  Distracted  Driving  Awareness  Month  and  how?    JF:  In  taking  our  presentations  on  the  road  nationally  and  throughout  Canada,  we  are  aiming  to  reach  an  unprecedented  number  of  teenagers.  By  strategically  combining  the  best  of  all  past  presentations  and  the  feedback  that  we  received,  we  intend  to  change  the  way  both  teens  and  adults  think  about  their  behavior  behind  the  wheel.  Delaware  County  and  Montgomery  County  are  declaring  April  as  Distracted  Driving  Awareness  Month,  so  although  we  have  a  North  American  campaign,  we  are  keeping  the  focus  local  as  well.    Aside  from  CFF/EndDD.org,  what  are  some  other  charities  on  the  top  of  your  list  and  why?    JF:  I  am  very  fortunate  that  my  partners  at  Anapol-­‐Schwartz  carry  similar  views  about  giving  back  to  the  community.  The  Law  firm  takes  a  percentage  of  our  fees  and  uses  those  to  benefit  populations  that  are  facing  challenges  similar  to  our  most  severely  injured  clients.  Our  mutual  efforts  have  benefited  several  area  organizations,  including  The  Burn  Foundation,  Legal  Clinic  for  the  Disabled  and  Magee  Rehabilitation  Hospital.  Of  special  note  is  a  project  we  are  currently  working  on  with  Magee  to  have  its  first  therapy  dog  for  use  as  part  of  occupational  therapy  with  the  patients,  not  only  helping  with  immediate  therapy  needs,  but  also  providing  patients  with  the  confidence  to  know  that  after  discharge  they  would  be  able  to  have  and  care  for  their  own  dog,  thus  enriching  their  lives.    How  do  you  maintain  your  legal  edge  at  the  firm  while  overseeing  CFF/EndDD.org?  JF:  Being  able  to  continue  to  practice  law  with  the  support  of  my  law  firm  and  its  26  attorneys  has  been  a  gift.  It  has  afforded  me  both  time  to  heal  and  to  focus  my  attention  on  distracted  driving  awareness.  The  bonus  has  been  seeing  so  many  lawyers  from  my  firm  get  involved.  During  National  Distracted  Driving  Awareness  Month,  well  
    • collectively  be  speaking  to  almost  5000  students.        What  made  you  decide  to  be  a  grief  counselor,  and  what  have  you  learned/taken  away  from  your  grief  counseling  experiences?    JF:  Before  Casey  died,  I  was  working  toward  a  Masters  Degree  in  Counseling.  I  was  very  focused  on  substance  abuse  and  thought  that  would  be  the  area  in  which  I  would  concentrate.  Now  that  Ive  become  acquainted  with  bereavement  on  such  a  personal  level,  I  realize  that  my  personal  experience  of  loss  makes  me  very  good  at  helping  others  as  they  begin  the  process  of  adapting  to  loss.  I  am  also  able  to  combine  lawyering  and  counseling-­‐for  30  years  I  have  represented  badly  injured  people  or  the  family  members  of  those  who  were  killed.  It  was  necessary  to  explore  their  losses  to  be  able  to  maximize  their  damage  claims.  As  a  result  of  my  personal  experience  of  loss,  my  counseling  experience,  including  providing  grief  counseling  through  a  local  hospice,  I  am  much  better  equipped  to  represent  clients,  including  listening  in  an  understanding  way  that  provides  comfort.  I  have  written  several  articles  for  lawyers  about  loss  and  understanding  client’s  losses  in  order  to  better  represent  badly  injured  clients  and  their  families.    What  is  your  favorite  audience  to  talk  to  about  distracted  driving?      JF:  I  enjoy  working  with  students  of  all  ages,  and  although  the  current  campaign  is  focused  on  high  school,  I  believe  that  in  order  to  change  the  driving  culture,  we  will  need  to  start  in  middle  school.  Future  years’  presentations  will  also  include  middle  school  students.  And  of  course  parents,  who  need  to  model  safe  driving  behaviors  for  their  children.      Did  you  ever  drive  distracted?    JF:  All  the  time,  and  often  with  kids  in  the  car.  Id  dial  my  cell  phone,  rummage  in  the  glove  compartment,  program  the  GPS,  eat,  talk…  I  was  like  most  everyone  else—I  thought  that  since  I  had  not  been  in  an  accident  I  was  a  safe  driver.  I  was  not  a  safe  driver,  only  a  lucky  driver.    What  do  you  do  when  you  see  someone  driving  distracted?  What  do  you  suggest  other  people  do  when  they  see  distracted  drivers?  JF:  The  same  rule  applies  as  that  for  drunk  drivers:  friends  dont  let  friends  drive  distracted.  If  youre  in  the  same  car,  its  as  easy  as  speaking  up.  But  when  I  see  other  drivers  on  their  phones,  or  doing  all  the  things  I  used  to  do  behind  the  wheel,  theres  not  much  I  can  do  but  hope  they  dont  get  involved  in  an  accident.  I  dont  recommend  honking  or  getting  too  animated  toward  passing  cars  for  the  obvious  reason  that  you  and  the  other  driver  will  then  be  distracted.        What  is  one  of  the  biggest  obstacles  you  have  had  to  overcome  since  you  started  CFF?  JF:  Adapting  to  this  role,  on  top  of  adapting  to  life  without  Casey,  has  been  an  evolving  process.  Im  here,  doing  this,  because  Casey  is  dead.  So  understanding  that  and  
    • continuing  to  put  myself  in  situations  where  Im  talking  about  what  caused  my  daughter’s  death  is  often  an  emotional  challenge.  When  I  see  other  young  people,  who  will  have  a  chance  to  live  full  lives,  I  think  of  Casey  and  how  she  won’t  have  that  chance.  After  the  presentations  are  finished  I  well  up  and  think  about  what  will  never  be  for  Casey.  CFF,  EndDD.org—theyre  not  going  to  bring  Casey  back.  But  its  keeping  my  thoughts  focused  and  her  memory,  alive.  And,  its  making  a  difference  in  the  lives  of  other  families.  I  count  myself  as  being  very  lucky  that  I  have  the  opportunity  to  talk  about  my  wonderful  daughter  and  to  save  young  lives  in  the  process.    How  has  the  ability  to  align  with  similarly  minded  organizations  made  CFF/EndDDs  mission  easier?  JF:  Sharing  ideas  with  those  who  have  more  experience  with  creating  and  guiding  foundations,  and  bringing  attention  to  a  cause  is  invaluable.  Weve  learned  a  lot  and  found  avenues  to  get  our  message  out  that  we  werent  aware  of  when  we  started.  The  idea  that  so  many  individuals  are  working  for  the  same  cause  is  inspiring.  Distracted  driving  is  a  global  issue,  and  one  that  can  be  prevented.  Its  much  easier  to  do  as  a  unified  effort.      Looking  back  on  the  past  three  years,  whats  the  most  indelible  thought,  emotion  or  lesson  thats  come  to  you?  JF:  Ive  represented  accident  victims  for  over  30  years,  with  many  of  them  killed  by  distracted  driving.  The  year  before  a  distracted  driver  kills  my  daughter,  I  enroll  in  a  Master’s  program  in  counseling  to  learn  how  to  better  to  listen  to  and  speak  with  legal  clients  and  understand  their  losses.  I  am  given  the  opportunity  to  help  those  in  mourning  by  providing  grief  counseling  at  a  hospice.  I  have  been  asked  to  speak  to  groups  about  loss,  about  how  to  improve  the  awkwardness  surrounding  death  so  that  those  who  have  suffered  losses  can  receive  vital  support,  and  I  have  the  good  fortune  of  being  with  law  partners  that  support  and  encourage  me  to  combine  law  and  counseling  to  better  serve  our  clients  and  their  families.  How  did  this  all  happen?  Who  could  have  written  such  a  script?  I  dont  think  its  a  coincidence.  I  am  here  today,  doing  what  I  am  doing  because  someone,  somebody,  some  higher  power  wanted  me  to  be  here.  And  for  that  I  am  deeply  thankful.