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“Distracted" Driving Injures Thousands of Floridians Each Year

April 2, 2013

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - Distracted driving is one of the main causes of auto accidents in Florida, and this month across the state and the nation, the focus is on prevention.

Joel Feldman's daughter was struck and killed by a distracted driver in 2009, and he said studies show that teens who grow up in a household where the parents drive distracted are two to four times more likely to drive distracted themselves when they get behind the wheel.

"I drove distracted all the time before my daughter was killed," Feldman confessed. "I was a poor role model: I would drive distracted with my kids in the car."

Feldman, who established the Casey Feldman Memorial Foundation in memory of his daughter, believes education is the key to reducing distracted driving. He said laws against cell phone use can be passed, but three-quarters of injuries and deaths involve distractions other than cell phones, things such as eating or reaching back to tend to an infant.

According to Peter Wetherall, one of 40 lawyers who just trained with Feldman to carry the message into schools, personal-injury lawyers can be effective communicators because they see firsthand the tragic consequences of distracted driving.

"Part of this program isn't just to point the finger at the students and say that 'You're doing wrong'; but really to have them be the conscience of their parents driving them around," the attorney said. "So, it's a two-way street; it's an interesting presentation that way."

Bans on texting while driving are making their way through the Florida Senate and House. Another bill aims to ban talking on handsets, but Wetherall said he believes any phone conversations in the car take drivers' attention off the road.

"If you're in a phone conversation, it doesn't matter if you are hands-free or not," he declared "It's lack of focus on the road that is causing the danger."

Nationwide, some 3,000 Americans lost their lives in distracted-driving accidents in 2010.

Driving statistics are at ZeroFatalities.com, and more on the distracted-driving issue is at CaseyFeldmanFoundation.org.

Stephanie Carroll Carson, Public News Service - FL