ST. JOHNS, Fla. – Joel Feldman knows something about the dangers of distracted driving. His 21-year-old daughter, Casey, was struck and killed in New Jersey in 2009 by a driver who took his eyes off the road.
The driver, who was charged in Casey’s death, admitted he looked away momentarily to set his iced tea down when the crash occurred. He never saw the young woman crossing the road on her way to work.
At first, Feldman was furious. He wondered how someone could be so reckless. But now he's channeling his tragedy into something positive. He formed a foundation in Casey’s name and travels the country to share his story with young drivers.
On Tuesday, Feldman’s mission brought him to St. Johns County, where he spoke for several hours with students at Bartram Trail High School in the hopes that they too will think about safety the next time they decide to get behind the wheel.
“When I learned Casey was in a crosswalk, I was so angry at the driver,” said Feldman. “How irresponsible. Then after several months, it dawned on me: I was that irresponsible driver too.”
To this day, he still wears a pink bracelet on his wrist in memory of Casey. But since launching the Casey Feldman Memorial Foundation, dozens of other bracelets have been added to his collection – each of them given to him by a heartbroken parent.
“These are the girls, these are the guys,” he said. “Each of them was killed by a distracted driver. Each of these was given to me by suffering moms who have asked me to tell my story and the story of their children, so no more kids have to die.”
Let’s face it, Feldman’s message needs to be repeated over and over again because so many of us drive distracted on a daily basis. Whether it’s texting on our phones or fidgeting with the radio dials inside our cars, it happens more than we’d like to admit.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, distracted driving is the cause of 10 percent of all deadly crashes and nearly 60 percent of all crashes involving teens. In Florida alone, more than 200 people died in distracted driving crashes last year.
Now, the Firehouse Subs Public Safety Foundation has teamed up with Feldman’s organization, and they’ll be speaking to St. Johns County students all week long. They want to put a stop to distracted driving. It’s a lofty goal, but one that any parent can get behind.
Robin Peters, executive director for the Firehouse Subs Public Safety Foundation, said it’s all about changing people’s attitudes so that they make better choices on the road.
“The most important thing is to save lives and not just by supporting our first responders, but through prevention and education,” said Peters. “These types of programs can save lives.”