April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month — and rightfully so. Gov. Nathan Deal affirmed this week that he is definitely going to sign Georgia’s new hands-free driving bill, which limits phone usage to one swipe of the screen. That law goes into effect July 1st. We will talk more in the near future in this column about how this affects the driving experience. This month ends properly with a stellar partnership between Atlanta Motor Speedway and EndDD.org. End Distracted Driving has an obvious goal and a great spokesperson. AMS brought in Joel Feldman this week to speak to both Alpharetta High School and Locust Grove High School about the dangers of texting and driving. Feldman told the AJC he was a distracted driver for many years, until a distracted driver killed his daughter, 21-year-old Casey, in a crosswalk in 2009. Casey’s death moved Feldman to not just become an advocate against distracted driving, but to actually go to school and get a master’s degree in counseling. This degree has led Feldman to make his presentations discussion-based and not lectures. Feldman has done about 600 distracted driving presentations, he estimated, since her death. And he thinks having kids and parents in the same talk is vital. “Teens, of course, are inexperienced, so when they drive distracted, it adversely affects them more. Some studies suggest that teens’ serious crashes — 60% are related to distracted driving.” Feldman said that, maybe surprisingly, studies show that drivers 19-39 years old text behind the wheel more often than drivers aged 16-18. Feldman led an exercise at Alpharetta High School on Tuesday night that awkwardly opened eyes. “I asked the kids who were there, ‘Raise your hand if your mom or dad, who you’re sitting here with, drives distracted,’ and all the hands shot up. And the moms and dads looked a little embarrassed.” Feldman noted the mixed message parents send about safety. “When you’re a parent with your kids in the car, you’re not only putting them in danger, but you’re teaching them it’s okay to drive distracted.” Feldman shared the contradiction one girl pointed out to him. Her mom would always ask whose parents’ house she was going to for a sleepover, but would never ask who is driving her or if they drive distracted. Feldman, a Pennsylvanian, pointed out the irony of how much Southern people value respect, but still rampantly text and drive. “It’s disrespectful, if you think about it, to the people driving in your car and those on the road, not to look at the road all the time, but to look at your phone.” We curse others who text and drive and worry for our safety. But, Feldman asked, how can we properly drive defensively on the minefields that are our roads, when we do the same? At the end of Feldman’s Alpharetta High session, the parents and the kids all pledged that they would not drive distracted. Gearheads have had that same opportunity at AMS’ Motorama this weekend. EndDD.org has had a booth with literature, bumper stickers, reminders, and the pledge in place all weekend for the festival goers. AMS will have the EndDD.org back in the fall for more programs. “I wish there were more organizations around the nation, like the speedway, that would set these things up and organize it and make it easy for me to get into schools.” Feldman said that he tailored his message for the car-centric crowd at AMS this weekend similarly to his charge to parents. “People look up to you because of your experience, so when people see you using your phone, what message does that send to others, who are not as confident?” Finally, Feldman said the tenet of his campaign is caring for others. Whether one is abstaining from texting or imploring their friends and family members to do the same, caring is the core. Feldman suggested speaking to people in a more loving, non-confrontational manner and sharing apps that block incoming notifications on phones while driving. “We wouldn’t let our friends drive drunk; why would we let them drive distracted?” Much like Jenny Harty turned to activism after her daughter’s crash injuries, Feldman has turned his daughter’s tragedy into a life-saving remedy for thousands. Harty is also involved with EndDD.org and campaigned for Georgia’s hands-free bill. Take the anti-distracted driving pledge on EndDD.org. Doug Turnbull, the PM drive airborne anchor for Triple Team Traffic on News 95-5 FM and AM-750 WSB, is the Gridlock Guy. He also writes a traffic blog and hosts a podcast with Smilin’ Mark McKay on wsbradio.com. Contact him at email@example.com.