The Georgia Trial Lawyers Association, the DeKalb District Attorney and a professional basketball star are all working on the same team this month in an effort to raise awareness about the dangers of texting, talking and other distractions for drivers.
Retired NBA player Shaquille O’Neal headlined a program at Arabia Mountain High School in Lithonia today that included speakers from the DeKalb District Attorney’s Office in partnership with DeKalb County’s Fire & Rescue and Georgia Department of Highway Safety. The program, called “Ghost Out,” is a collaborative annual event that features speakers, reenactments and presentations designed to educate young drivers about dangerous distractions.
“I know we have all seen cars swerve on the road when a person is talking on the phone or trying to text and drive. A split second can change someone’s life forever. We see lives lost every day due to reckless behavior behind the wheel,” District Attorney Robert James said in an announcement. “This is a great message for young people to hear as we approach the prom season. Hopefully our efforts will help change behaviors and save lives down the road.”
The trial lawyers’ group chose April, National Distracted Driving Awareness Month, to announce a year-round partnership with EndDD.org (End Distracted Driving). It’s a campaign that began in 2009 after the death of 21-year-old Casey Feldman at the hands of a distracted driver. It’s already reached 172,000 students and drivers in 41 different states through a personalized, interactive presentation about the dangers of distracted driving.
In an announcement, GTLA President Buck Rogers cited National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates saying that in a single year, over 5,000 people are killed on U.S. roadways and another 448,000 injured in motor vehicle crashes that involved distracted driving.
“It is our sincere hope that, through this partnership, Georgia drivers will take seriously the opportunity to commit to adopting safer, more responsible habits on our roadways,” Rogers said.
Through the partnership, the Georgia Trial Lawyers Association’s 2,000 members will be encouraged to deliver a customized EndDD presentation in schools, civic organizations and other community groups in a concerted effort to raise distracted driving awareness across the state. The program includes a Family Safe Driving Agreement that outlines safety steps.
The announcement included a statement from the Philadelphia trial lawyer who started EndDD.org. “As a father whose daughter was killed by a distracted driver, I have seen first-hand the devastating effect that reckless decisions on our roadways can have,” said Joel Feldman, a shareholder at Anapol Schwartz, a personal injury firm.
Michael Wilensky, a Georgia attorney who has made the EndDD presentation to schools, groups and congregations around Atlanta for the past two years, said in the announcement that the program “empowers individuals of all ages to make the choice to not drive distracted and to speak up for their own safety when they are in the car with a distracted driver.” He said the presentation “shows not only how to identify distractions while driving, but that these distractions go far beyond just talking on a cell phone or texting.”