Casey’s Friend, Brooke Burdge, Shares Her Story with Local NJ Teens in Distracted Driving Presentation

Sunday, March 17th, 2013

The following is a guest blog by Brooke Burdge, a friend of Casey’s during her time at Fordham University.

 

Brooke Burdge with students from Monmouth Regional High School who are involved in efforts to help promote safe driving within their own school community.

On March 11, I had the opportunity to speak with close to 1,000 students and faculty at Monmouth Regional High School in Tinton Falls, New Jersey on the topic of distracted driving. My presentation was part of  the EndDD.org End Distracted Driving Student Awareness Initiative, which since its inception in 2012, has reached over 60,000 high school students.

At the start of my presentation, I gave a brief overview of EndDD’s mission, as well as some background on the inspiration for these presentations. I described how in the summer of 2009, an attorney and father named Joel Feldman from Pennsylvania got the news that his 21-year-old daughter, Casey, was struck and killed by a distracted driver while she was a pedestrian in a crosswalk on her way to her summer job in Ocean City, New Jersey. I told them how he then established the Casey Feldman Foundation in memory of his daughter and created EndDD.org  and the distracted driving presentation to educate others about the dangers of distracted driving.

Brooke (L) and Casey in a photo taken during their time together at Fordham University

Then, I let the group know a little more about me. Like them, I grew up in Monmouth County, NJ.  After graduating from a nearby high school in 2006, I went on to Fordham University, where I made a great friend named Casey.  This is the moment where I showed them a slide with photos of Casey and myself throughout our time together, as well as two Facebook wall posts from Casey. In this moment, the audience realized my direct connection to this cause and the root of my passion for this issue.

Later in the presentation, I showed the students the “Faces of Distracted Driving” video created for the U.S. Department of Transportation, in which a few of Casey’s friends and I talk about the preventable nature of Casey’s tragedy.  I explained to the students that you tend to see these types of videos and think, “Something like this couldn’t happen to me or my friends,” but those are all my good friends on that screen, and it’s very real to each of us.

Brooke (L) and Casey working for The Observer at the Fordham reunion in June 2008

Throughout the presentation, I reminded the group of three main points.  First, this is not just a teen problem. Adults are also guilty. I shared that before July 2009, I was also guilty of distracted driving. Secondly, I let them know that this is a choice. I wasn’t there to tell them what they should or should not be doing. I was there to give them information, and share a few stories, that they can take into consideration when making their own choices behind the wheel. And third, I reminded that that yes, these stories are sad, but they’re preventable. I wanted them to understand that although what happened to Casey and others they would hear about is extremely upsetting, it didn’t have to happen. I wanted everyone in the room to walk away feeling like they were in a position to help stop future tragedies like these from taking place.

Before the presentation, over 400 students had completed questionnaires about distracted driving. I covered the forms of distracted driving they had mentioned most frequently in their surveys—taking eyes off the road, texting, talking on the phone. But, I also wanted them to think more about the other kinds of distracted driving that may not come to mind as frequently, but are just as dangerous, such as eating, changing music, applying makeup, programing a GPS, and reaching for something.

Brooke Burdge speaking to students at Monmouth Regional High School in NJ. Photo Credit: Samantha Primich

We discussed the importance of speaking up for your own safety when a passenger in an adult’s or a friend’s car—how you can offer to take your driver’s phone and cover any calls or texts for them while their driving.  Through various stories about the numerous consequences of distracted driving, I hoped to drive home the point that this is sad, but preventable. Just a few seconds can change everything, and in the end, are those few seconds of distraction really worth the consequences?

I want to thank those faculty and students who helped organize this assembly.  Additionally, I want to thank every student and faculty member in that room for their attention.  A handful of students have reached out to me on social media since the assembly, and I am so happy that this presentation helped them think about distracted driving in a new light.

NOTE:  View photos from the presentation here. View Brooke Burdge and Casey’s other friends  in the Faces of Distracted Driving video below speaking about Casey and how they changed they driving habits after Casey’s death. View U.S. Secretary of Transportation, Ray LaHood’s blog article introducing the video.

RI to Roll Out Casey Feldman Foundation/EndDD Distracted Driving Program to Reach Every Teen in State

Tuesday, October 23rd, 2012

In a press conference on Wednesday, October 17th held at the State House in Providence, Rhode Island, Joel Feldman and Dianne Anderson joined trial lawyers and elected officials to announce an initiative that will result in every teen in Rhode Island seeing the Casey Feldman Foundation’s EndDD.org/60forSafety  distracted driving presentation. Rhode Island Association for Justice  President, Anthony Leone has made reaching out to the community to promote safety a  central part of his presidency. Trial lawyers across Rhode Island have committed to giving the  presentation in every high school in the state to  educate teens about distracted driving in an effort to save lives.

L: Joel Feldman, Rhode Island Governor Lincoln Chafee and Anthony Leone president of Rhode Island Association for Justice

Anthony Leone was joined by Rhode Island Governor Lincoln Chaffee, Speaker of the Rhode Island House of Representatives, Gordon Fox; Senate Judiciary Chair, Michael McCaffery, Joel Feldman and Dianne Anderson. There was incredible support for the program. Joel Feldman spoke about how he was inspired to create the program following Casey’s death caused by a distracted driver in 2009 .  Joel described the scientific nature of the presentation and the very successful pilot program in the spring of 2012 which resulted in more than 41,000 teens seeing the presentation. Joel said “all of Casey’s friends  have changed the way they drive as a result of Casey’s death. I have changed the way I drive as a result of Casey’s death-we created this program so that it would not take personal tragedies for all of us  to change the way we drive.

Joel Feldman speaking at the press conference as Governor Chafee looks on

Rhode Island is the first of a number of states’ trial lawyer organizations  to have their trial lawyers go into schools and talk with students about distracted driving. Through Joel’s tireless efforts, Kentucky, Indiana, New York, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania have announced similar plans and more states are signing on. It is  estimated that the program will reach more than 250,000 teens this year.

To find out about the program, participate as a speaker or arrange a presentation, send an e-mail to info@enddd.org. EndDD.org (End Distracted Driving) is the Casey Feldman Foundation’s sponsored site devoted to ending distracted driving.

Donate to the Casey Feldman Foundation so that we may continue with our worthy causes.
 

Related Links:

Photos from the press conference

EndDD.org – Casey Feldman Foundation’s sponsored site devoted to ending distracted driving

60 For Safety

Rhode Island Association for Justice

American Association for Justice

 

Casey Feldman Memorial Foundation Launches Site to End Distracted Driving

Monday, February 28th, 2011

In an effort to increase awareness for distracted driving, the Casey Feldman Memorial Foundation has launched a website, EndDD.org. – “In honor of all families who have been injured by or lost a loved one to distracted driving, EndDD will passionately advocate, educate and support efforts to end distracted driving.”

The site offers visitors the chance to view the video produced by Casey’s father Joel, which features Casey’s friends and family telling her story. The video links to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s own website for distracted driving, which also features others stories and “Faces of Distracted Driving.” To join us in ending distracted driving, start by clicking here.

Joel Feldman Interviewed about Distracted Driving

Wednesday, February 23rd, 2011

Casey and her father, Joel Feldman on Christmas day 2008

Yesterday, Fox News Philadelphia reported on distracted driving, and the U.S. Department of Transportation’s efforts to reduce this epidemic. The video produced by the Casey Feldman Memorial Foundation was aired, along with an interview with Casey’s father, Joel Feldman. To view the segment, click here.

To view more stories about distracted driving and to join the Casey Feldman Memorial Foundation in inspiring the community to end distracted driving, please visit enddd.org.

To view all of the television news videos including the FOX News interview as well as print and web coverage compiled on the Casey Feldman Memories site, click here.