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More than 200 teens at Robert E. Lee High School in Riverside received some real-life lessons about the dangers of distracted driving from local attorneys Wayne Hogan and Leslie A. Goller of the Terrell Hogan Law Firm.

It was part of the firm’s End Distracted Driving Student Awareness Initiative that’s trying to end dangerous behavior that puts drivers — and others sharing the road with them — at risk.

Our goal isn’t to tell kids what to do, but to give them the facts, to show them the faces of distracted driving and its tragic conse­quences, so that it sinks in and they can make smarter choices to be safer on the road,” said Wayne Hogan, president of Terrell Hogan.

As part of the presen­tation, teens, who often think they are invin­cible, watched a video of a girl whose sister died after responding to her text. Her truck hit a median, flipped over and she died. Students also heard a remorseful teenage boy talk about how he responded to a text with the phrase “lol”, didn’t see a bicyclist and killed him. That one, unnec­essary text ruined the boy’s life and stole someone else’s. These were just two compelling stories students heard about from the 5,000 people killed each year because of distracted driving.

The teens also discussed the potential conse­quences of killing someone by driving distracted including: living with the burden of taking a life, the ripple effect it has on the people in the victim’s life, losing their driver’s license and putting their parent’s financial security at risk if they’re held liable for the crash.

They also delved into how distracted driving is more than just texting. It includes changing music on an iPod, eating, applying make-up, talking on the phone and surfing the internet. “We all know not to drink and drive. Talking on your cell phone carries the same risk as drunk driving — both increase your crash risk 4x and texting increases it 23x,” Hogan said. Hogan predicted to the students that it won’t be long before prose­cutors will bring manslaughter charges when texting while driving causes a death.

The students who drive were encouraged to change their driving behavior and also to speak up if they’re in a car with a distracted driver, such as by offering to make the call or text for the driver. They were given an End Distracted Driving Pledge to sign and a wrist band that says “ARRIVE ALIVEDON’T TEXT AND DRIVE” to wear as a reminder.
While Florida is one of a handful of states that does not ban handheld cell phone usage or texting while driving, safety advocates recommend drivers not wait on legis­lation to make good decisions. “Our goal in doing this is to encourage kids to look out for themselves and others, making the roads safer for everyone,” Goller said.

The End Distracted Driving Student Awareness Initiative is an educa­tional program created by the Casey Feldman Foundation to honor her legacy after she was killed by a distracted driver. The program has reached more than 35,000 students nationwide this year.

For more infor­mation about the End Distracted Driving Student Awareness Initiative, please see our article The Dangers of Distracted Driving.