Family of teen killed in crash wants ban on drivers' texting

ATHENS, Ga. - The family of a 2009 Morgan County High School graduate who died in a car crash while texting is pushing legislators to prohibit drivers from typing or reading text messages when on the road.

Caleb Sorohan, 18, was killed Dec. 15 when he crashed head-on into a Toyota Sequoia not far from his Rutledge home while texting on his cell phone.

Sorohan had a phone in his lap that he used to send six texts just minutes before the collision, said his grandmother Sallie Sorohan.

"To have a young life snuffed out like this in a matter of seconds, it's traumatic, it really is. And it's something none of us will ever get over," Sorohan said. "We want something good to come from this death. We don't want others to suffer like we have."

At Sorohan's urging, state Rep. Amos Amerson proposed legislation that would make texting while driving a misdemeanor, punishable by a $300 fine.

State Rep. Allen Peake filed a similar bill, which would fine texting drivers up to $100 and put a two point-violation on their driving record. Peake's House Bill 938 likely will be merged with House Bill 944, sponsored by Amerson.

"The whole purpose of this bill is to change behavior and make people safer on the roads," said Amerson, R-Dahlonega. "A number of times, I've almost been run off the road. (Texting while driving) is very dangerous because people just don't know what's going on around them when they do it."

Drivers who text are 23 times more likely to get into a serious crash than non-distracted drivers, according to a July study by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute.

The same study pointed out that a driver who looks at a cell phone for five seconds while traveling at highway speed covers the length of a football field without seeing the road.

Peake, R-Macon, says he used to be one of those drivers until a passerby took down his state legislator tag and called him to complain. Now Peake says he knows better and tries to leave those all important messages until he gets to the office.

"If you think of it, in three seconds I can kill myself and someone else on the road. So it's worth the wait to check that e-mail or text until you get to the office," he said.

"There are studies that clearly show that texting while driving is a greater distraction than even if you were legally drunk," Peake said. "You think about that for a while - with all those citizens out there, they're a whole lot more dangerous than a road full of drunks."

Driver's education teachers try to emphasize the risks of distracted driving to teens, said Wendy Luna an officer manager at A-1 Driving School. Many teens today text so much, it's hard to make them understand that they should stop when they get into a car, she said.

"We try to scare them, because (texting is) their life," Luna said. "Texting is what they do from when they get up in the morning to when they get home and are about ready to go to bed."

Peake's bill had a first reading in the House on Jan. 14. Amerson expects his bill will be read sometime this week.

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