Educating Students about the Dangers of Distracted Driving

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Mike Greenspan presenting EndDD Initiative November 2013/Photo: Susan Solar
Mike Greenspan presenting EndDD Initiative November 2013/Photo: Susan Solar

Last week was the second time trial attorney and Clarkstown resident Mike Greenspan presented the End Distracted Driving Student Awareness Initiative to an 11th-grade class and 12th-grade  students — some of whom have learner’s permits — at Clarkstown South High School.

“You could see that these kids were very receptive to the message I was delivering,” Greenspan, who spoke to 800 CSHS students in spring 2013, said. “Distracted driving is selfish driving. People who do selfish things can kill people.”

New York State Trial Lawyers Association (NYSTLA) member Joel Feldman earned a master’s degree in counseling and began the EndDD Initiative three years ago after his 21-year-old daughter Casey was struck and killed by a distracted driver — who reached across the center console for a drink — as she crossed an intersection.

CSHS Student Assistance Counselor Susan Solar’ said the presentation was part of a lesson about making good decisions.

“This generation believes it can multi-task, and research shows it’s not possible to do this,” Solar said. “Kids are listening to music and posting to Facebook when they do homework, thinking they can do two or three things at once.”

Greenspan admitted to driving distracted until he learned about the awareness project. “Meeting Joel (Feldman) and his wife had an impact on me.”

Slide from the EndDD Initiative's presentation/Photo: Robin Traum
Slide from the EndDD Initiative’s presentation/Photo: Robin Traum

Since 2012 more than 900 volunteer speakers — 800 of whom are trial attorneys — have presented the program, sponsored by The Casey Feldman Memorial Foundation, to approximately 200,000 teens and 25,000 adults through schools, colleges and businesses across the country.

“We have to let the kids know it’s a different kind of talk,” Feldman said. “Speakers usually tell kids what they’re doing wrong. We’re not going to tell them what to do — we’re going to talk about distracted driving.”

He admitted he drove distracted prior to his daughter’s death and said many of the speakers begin their presentations with the same admission.

One CSHS student — after watching a video of a young driver who looked away from the road to check her GPS and killed a pedestrian — asked Greenspan if the driver went to jail.

“I asked her, ‘Does it matter?’ he said. “The message is, ‘What difference does it make? You could see it had an impact on the students.”

Greenspan explained when people are talking on the phone with Bluetooth, “their fields of vision narrow drastically, and you don’t see what’s outside that field.”

Slide showing narrowed field of vision/Transport Canada
Slide showing narrowed field of vision/Transport Canada

Teens participate in role play exercises to help them try out and gain confidence in using bystander intervention strategies. They also participate in a simple interactive exercise — writing backwards from 100 to zero while talking on their cell phones — to show how their skills are easily diminished when they multi-task.

Feldman acknowledge that while it’s important for teens to have behind-the-wheel experience as they’re learning to drive, it’s also difficult to get that experience.

Because teens encompass a disproportionate number of distracted drivers, he said he’s pushing for legislation to include teaching about distracted drivers in driver safety classes.

“There’s a social taboo against drunk driving — kids and adults are advised to call their parents or another friend, take away their friend’s key, call a cab, become a designated driver — and we need to make them aware of distracted driving,” Feldman said.

If you’re the passenger in a car whose driver is distracted, let him or her know using non-confrontational language.

“Hey, I noticed you’re drifting over the double yellow line” or “Can I take that call or text for you?” Greenspan advised passengers to voice their concern since “distracted driving is everyone’s problem, and teens can do something about it.”

Solar said the class appreciated the presentation, and students said they wanted to make different choices.

After the April 2013 students were given a contract to make a decision not to drive distracted. “This time in the spirit of Thanksgiving I gave them a contract for themselves and for someone they love to give the gift of life,” she said. “It’s recognizing the impact they have on others and respect for taking care of each other.”

For information about the EndDD Initiative call the NYSTLA at 212-349-5890.

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