At an event designed to have drivers pledge not to text while driving, University of North Georgia President Bonita Jacobs declared Sept. 19 Drive 4 Pledges Day at UNG and recognized other campus events to be held in conjunction with the national It Can Wait campaign.
The day holds special meaning for the UNG community because of the death of Caleb Sorohan, a university student, who died as a result of texting while driving in an accident in December 2009. Sept. 19 is the national Drive 4 Pledges Day, which coincidentally fell on the day Sorohan would have turned 22.
"Through the loss of one of our own students, we know the dangers of texting and driving," Jacobs said. "Today, we remember Caleb and pay tribute to his legacy and family, who used this tragedy to launch such a wonderful movement. No text is worth dying for, and we are proud to be a part of the It Can Wait movement."
Several members of Sorohan's family were present for the event, including his grandmother, Sallie Sorohan, who initiated the movement to have a law passed to end texting and driving in Georgia. The resulting legislation is now known as Caleb's Law.
"We never imagined something like this would happen to our family, and we wanted to make sure that no other family has to experience it," Sorohan said. "After Caleb's accident, I called our representative, Amos Amerson, and asked him to sponsor a bill to help end texting and driving. The bill was written, passed and signed within six months."
Students on the Oconee Campus held a related pledge drive today from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the Student Resource Center, where a total of 101 students signed the pledge to not text and drive. Sorohan's sister, Alex Sorohan, will speak on the Dahlonega Campus on Sept. 25 in an event sponsored by the campus' Peer Health Educators group.
Paul Chambers, regional director of external affairs for AT&T, a national corporate sponsor of the It Can Wait campaign, attended and spoke about the company's efforts to stop texting and driving nationwide.
"Today, we remember the life of Caleb Sorohan on his 22nd birthday," Chambers said. "We are thankful for his family, who took a tragedy and did something positive with it. No text is too important to send or read without waiting until you are not driving. Making something illegal does not make people stop doing it; this is why the It Can Wait campaign exists, to help people make that promise."
Chambers added that more than 2 million people signed during last year's inaugural Drive 4 Pledges Day. He also encouraged people who are passengers when a driver is texting to speak up, and to refrain from sending a text to someone whom they know is driving, as it encourages them to take their eyes off the road to read it.
"We want to be responsible, and to be an encouragement to other students who may not be fully aware of the dangers of texting and driving," said Rachel Davis, a sophomore at UNG.
More than 50 people gathered for the event and to support the pledge campaign, including former Rep. Amos Amerson, Lumpkin County Sheriff Stacy Jarrard, and Chris Dockery, chairman of the Lumpkin County Board of Commissioners. The pledge poster, where attendees signed their promise to not text and drive, had more than 40 signatures in the moments following the speakers. Students also received rubber bracelets reminding them, "Just drive, don't text."
For more information about the It Can Wait campaign and to take the pledge online, visit www.itcanwait.com.