My daughter Casey was 21 when she was struck and killed by a distracted driver. It was daytime and she was walking in a crosswalk with 4-way stop signs. A 58 year old driver was distracted, never saw her and went through a stop sign. Emergency personnel said that before she lost consciousness Casey asked for her mother. Every day my wife is tormented for not being with Casey to comfort her in those last moments. I think about how Casey died, conscious, laying on a roadway and how afraid she must have been.
"I never thought I could kill through my driving."
As a lawyer I had represented those injured and family members of those killed by distracted driving for more than 30 years. But I still drove distracted. I would text, read and send e-mails, program my GPS, read maps and eat -- all while driving. Over the last 2 years I have spoken with thousands of teens and adults about distracted driving across the country using a presentation that was developed with the help of researchers, pediatricians, psychologists and teen messaging experts at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. I meet those who have killed through their driving. Virtually all those who have killed through distracted driving tell me that they never thought they were the type of person who could kill though their driving. I know now that I could have easily killed someone else's child, spouse, friend or parent while driving distracted.
I drove distracted with my children in the car -- I was not a good role model for safe driving.
My children are the most important people in the world to me and, like most parents, I would do anything for them. Yet I routinely drove distracted with them in the car. Taking chances driving with those I love most doesn't make much sense. And in driving distracted with my children in the car I was teaching them that it was ok to text, make calls, program the GPS, read e-mails or eat while driving. The vast majority of the 25,000 teens I have spoken with across the country tell me that their moms and dads also drive distracted with them in the car. Moms are texting, reading e-mails, talking on the cell phone and applying makeup. Dads text, read e-mails, talk on the cell phone, play video games, jam out to music and steer with their knees because both hands are occupied and can't hold the steering wheel.
What have we been teaching our children about distracted driving?
No one, including adults, should drive distracted but maybe as experienced drivers adults get away with it longer. Our children, the most inexperienced of drivers, are dying in car crashes at three times the rate of any other age group. Teens that grow up in a household with parents who drive distracted are more than twice as likely to also drive distracted. We need to be better role models for our children when it comes to safe non-distracted driving. What driving distractions are we willing to give up if it means saving our children's lives?
Be the driver you want your teen to be.
To download a Family Safe Driving Agreement and for information about distracted driving presentations go to EndDD.org
This post is part of a series produced by The Huffington Post and the Harvard School of Public Health in an effort to call more attention to the dangers of texting while driving. Distracted driving is the cause of 350,000 crashes per year, and the series will be putting a spotlight on efforts being made to combat the crisis by the public and private sectors and the academic and nonprofit worlds. In addition to original reporting on the subject, we'll feature at least one post a day every weekday in November. To see all the posts in the series, click here; for more information on the national effort, click here.
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