The day was Dec. 16, 2009.
Caleb Sorohan, then 18 and studying at North Georgia College and State University to become an athletic trainer, was sending and receiving text messages on his cellphone while driving on a road near Athens on his way to meet a friend to go Christmas shopping. Instead of waiting until he was stopped, Caleb picked up the phone and began tapping out a message.
A second later, his family said, his Saturn crossed the center line, hitting another vehicle head-on. He was killed at the scene. The woman in the other car was severely injured.
“I’m a senior this year,” said Alex Sorohan, a student at Morgan County High School and Caleb’s younger sister. “I’m going to walk across that stage, and he won’t be there to see me ... I know texting your friends seems really important, but how important will it be if you can never see them again because you died in a texting while driving crash?”
Alex and several other Morgan High students visited Christian Heritage School in Dalton Tuesday afternoon to share their story and urge young drivers to put the phone down when they take the wheel.
The students are touring across Georgia with their message through a grant from the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety. Their group includes several students and government teacher Amy Sailor who successfully lobbied state legislators in 2010 to outlaw texting while driving.
Caleb’s mother, Mandi Sorohan, said she believes her son would be alive today had the law been in place. He would have listened had texting while driving been against the law, she said, but he didn’t listen to the family’s warnings about how dangerous the practice is.
Caleb’s younger brother, Griffin, 15, said Caleb had stopped texting and driving while he was in the car at least a couple of months before the crash, but he apparently didn’t stick to that practice at other times.
Jonina Frische, the Morgan High student whose mother was in the vehicle Caleb crashed into, said the wreck significantly changed their lives even though no one in her family was killed. Frische said her mother had come to America from Germany on a work visa to work with horses. After the crash, back injuries and an inoperable neck injury prevented her from riding horses again.
“The first couple of weeks after the crash, she was in so much pain she couldn’t do anything by herself,” Frische said. “She was the only one (in the family) who was able to work, and a big part of her job was riding horses, and she’ll never be able to do that again.”
Frische said she believes the teens’ education efforts have saved many lives.
Christian Heritage student Evan Townsend, 15, said the photos of the wreck are dramatic and telling. He said he doesn’t plan to text and drive once he gets his license, but he knows many people who do.
“Whenever my brother drives me from school and back, he’ll text sometimes, and I’ll tell him to put the phone down,” he said.
The day was Dec. 16, 2009.
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