Distracted Driving Awareness Month guest contributor Joel Feldman: Celebrating my daughter’s 25th birthday

Wednesday, April 10th, 2013

Article by Joel Feldman, guest contributor, reprinted from the U.S. Secretary of Transportation (US.DOT), Ray Lahood’s official blog, Fast Lane:

Pink balloons were released to mark Casey's 25th birthday

Pink balloons were released to mark Casey’s 25th birthday

Apr 10, 2013 – This past weekend, on April 6, we celebrated my daughter Casey’s 25th birthday. But Casey wasn’t there. She was killed in 2009 by a distracted driver, a 58-year-old man behind the wheel of a van. He took his eyes off the road for just a few seconds. Pink was Casey’s favorite color, so we released pink balloons in her memory. As the balloons drifted upwards, I thought of her smile, the last time I heard her say “daddy,” how caring, compassionate, and loving she was, and her incredible zest for life. I also thought of her last moments, how she suffered, how afraid she must have been, and the last words she spoke before she died: “I want my mom.”

Following Casey’s death, our family established the Casey Feldman Foundation and created “End Distracted Driving.” We are keeping Casey’s memory alive through EndDD.org by raising awareness about distracted driving and changing driver behaviors – especially among young people. We want to spare other families from the suffering we have endured.

Two years ago, Casey became one of Secretary LaHood’s “Faces of Distracted Driving.” I created the video to share the story of Casey’s life and death with the world, and I was proud to see it become the first public submission in the “Faces” series.

Distracted Driving Awareness Month guest contributor Joel Feldman

Distracted Driving Awareness Month guest contributor Joel Feldman

Today, that same video is the centerpiece of EndDD.org’s Student Awareness Initiative. We worked with experts to develop this interactive presentation with the goal of changing driving attitudes and behaviors of teens and their parents. By the end of 2013, nearly 200,000 people – mostly teenagers – in more than 40 states will have participated in the EndDD.org program.

Nearly all the teens we work with tell me that their parents drive distracted with them in the car, and their friends’ parents do the same when they’re carpooling. I know I drove distracted with my children in the car before Casey was killed. That changed with her death.

I’m encouraged because what drivers consider acceptable behavior behind the wheel is starting to change, especially because of young people. They are “getting it” – much as an earlier generation learned the importance of using seat belts and convinced their parents to buckle up. Young people are working with moms and dads to adopt safe driving rules for the entire family. Young people are helping to change our entire driving culture.

People often tell me how brave I am to speak publicly about my daughter. But I don’t feel very brave. I just feel that I have to do this, so Casey’s life and death will make a difference for others.

It took Casey’s death for me to change the way I drive. But I hope it won’t take personal tragedies for others to get the message. I am optimistic we all can “get it”, even as we celebrate Casey’s birthday without her.