Distracted driving: Lewiston students learn what can happen when eyes leave the road

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LEWISTON — A Philadelphia lawyer told Lewiston High School juniors and seniors Wednesday that he realized his hypocrisy when his 21-year-old daughter Casey was killed by a distracted driver in 2009.

“I would text. I would send emails,” Joel Feldman, founder of EndDD.org, said during a presentation on the dangers of distracted driving.

He asked how many had driven while distracted or had driven with someone who was sending an email or a text.

Hands shot up.

Before his daughter was killed, Feldman said, he did those things.

“I was very lucky. I never was in a crash or caused someone to be injured or killed,” he said.

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His daughter wasn’t lucky, he said. She was killed by a driver while crossing a street in New Jersey.

In court, the driver said he didn’t see Casey; he only took his eyes off the road for a few seconds.

That’s all it takes, Feldman said.

“My daughter was killed because a 58-year-old man took his eyes off the road, reached for his GPS, drove through a stop sign, hit her,” Feldman said.

For months he was angry at the man, but then he thought, “What a hypocrite I was, because I would text and I would email. That’s what caused me to change the way I drive, because Casey was killed.”

He shared the same message this week with students from Edward Little, Poland Regional, Gray-New Gloucester and Leavitt Area high schools.

Everyone knows at some level there’s danger in texting or driving distracted, Feldman said, “but a lot of the attitude is, ‘It’s OK if I drive distracted, but I don’t want him in the car next to me to drive distracted.’”

Texting while driving isn’t only dangerous and risky, “it’s irresponsible. It’s selfish,” he said.

Research shows 94 percent of people say their biggest fear on the road is  distracted drivers.

Math teacher Bruce Nicholas shared his experience with a distracted driver. He was traveling 70 mph on the interstate when he was rear-ended by someone on a cellphone, he said.

The largest percentage of distracted driving crashes are read-end collisions, Feldman said.

Feldman’s presentation included videos of drivers on their phones or otherwise distractedly drifting off the road or nearly being hit by a tractor-trailer.

He encouraged students not to drive while distracted and to say something if they’re with a driver who takes their eyes off the road.

“If you say something, you’re very likely to be successful,” he said. “Speak up.”

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