As part of a North American initiative that seeks to educate teens and adults on the importance of safe driving, the Montgomery County Commissioners have unanimously approved a resolution to formally recognize the week of April 8 as Distracted Driving Awareness Week.
"We're [passing this resolution]because the more attention we can draw to an issue like this, the more chance that someone – before they pick up their iPhone or Blackberry – will think twice about [distracted driving], put it down, and maybe save their life or someone else's," said Josh Shapiro, Chairman of the Montgomery County Commissioners.
The safe-driving initiative is spearheaded by Joel Feldman and Dianne Anderson, whose daughter Casey died as a result of a distracted driver nearly three years ago. Motivated by their loss, they created the Casey Feldman Foundation, which boasts an army of 800-to-900 trial lawyers and judges who speak to high schools across the United States and Canada.
"We will give presentations at any high school that would like a presentation, as well as community groups," said Feldman, adding that until he lost his daughter, he was also guilty of driving while distracted. "We're supposed to be role models, but I think we can do a better job at it."
On the local front, Philadelphia-based attorney Michael Monheit will be addressing nearly 1,600 high school students across Montgomery County, including students from Haverford High School, Upper Dublin High School, and the Mount Saint Joseph Academy.
According to Jesse Stemple -- a recently retired Lieutenant from the Whitemarsh Police Department -- nearly 350 vehicle accidents occur in Pennsylvania each day, and those accidents claim the lives of 1500 drivers each year.
"Studies have shown that drivers that use handheld devices are four-times more likely to be involved in a crash," said Stemple. "Those who text messages while driving are 23 times more likely to be involved in a crash."
Shapiro, who authored the legislation that bans text messaging while driving, said he's shocked by the amount of people who share tragic stories of residents who are needlessly killed in accidents which may have been preventable.
"I was struck over the years by how many people I have met--like Joel--who told me terrible stories of tragedy that came upon their families as a result of distracted driving," said Shapiro.
While the ban on texting while driving prohibits reading, writing and sending text messages while operating a moving vehicle, other distractions -- such as eating while behind the wheel, putting on makeup and tending to personal hygiene -- are still common on area roadways.
For more information on distracted driving, visit www.caseyfeldmanfoundation.org