A new AT&T national ad campaign aiming to warn against distracted driving features the story of Caleb Sorohan, a Morgan County teenager who died in 2009 during a car accident in which he checked his phone to read a text message before veering into the oncoming lane of traffic.
The slogan for the campaign is “No Distraction is Worth a Future.” The commercial explores what the lives of Caleb Sorohan and Forrest Cepeda, another victim of distracted driving, would be like today. AT&T took a bold approach to get their message across, working extensively with the Sorohan and Cepeda families, and forensic artists to create a virtual reality version of what Caleb and Forrest would look like now.
During the commercial the recreated Caleb tells his own story of what his life could be like.
“Things turned out differently, I don’t know,” says the recreated Caleb in the commercial. “I wanted to be an athletic trainer. I actually wanted to be an athlete, but I wasn’t very good at sports. Maybe I’d be married to that girl I was hanging out with during my freshman year. She’s married with a baby now. Life keeps racing forward for everyone…except me.”
While pictures and videos of Caleb’s childhood flash across the screen, the voice of Caleb’s mother, Mandi Sorohan, can be heard.
“He decided to go Christmas shopping with a friend, he looked down at his phone to read a text message and he veered into the oncoming lane and he hit them head on,” says Mandi.
AT&T flew out Caleb’s mother, Mandi Sorohan, his sister, Alex Sorohan, 24, and brother, Griffin, 21, to California last December to appear in longer versions campaign ad to show how families who lose loved ones to distracted driving are affected forever.
“It doesn’t just affect a couple of the people, it affects so many people,” said Mandi Sorohan. “It’s not a good reason to die. I just wish people would think about what they are doing. This isn’t just a teenage problem. Adults do it, too. Everyone needs to think about what they are doing in the car and what kind of example they are setting for young people. It’s just so normal to have our phones on us at all times, people don’t think about how dangerous it is to use them while driving. It puts you and everybody around you at risk.”
A longer version of the ad features interviews with Caleb’s mother, sister and brother. Mandi, Alex and Griffin recount their memory of finding out Caleb had died before Christmas of 2009.
“It just takes one little thing while you are going 55 miles per hour in a car to mess everything up forever,” said Griffin in the commercial. “We will never get to talk to Caleb again. We will never get to do regular day things with Caleb again. We used to go on Sundays and play baseball and something that simple taken for granted before it is gone now. I can still talk to him, but I will never hear back from Caleb.”
“Caleb was an amazing person and he had a good heart and he loved people, but he was a person he was real he was so real. He was bad at sports, he was goofy, he made the stupidest remarks sometimes, but He did this one thing, and he thought it wouldn’t matter but he did. It’s so easy to not die from this. Just don’t do it,” said Alex in the commercial.
Since Caleb’s death in 2009, Mandi and her other children, Alex and Griffin, helped get Caleb’s Law passed in Georgia, and continue to participate in efforts to stop people from texting while driving.
“People think, ‘it won’t happen to me.’ I never thought I would be that my mom either when the sheriff came to do my door to tell me my son is dead. You think that stuff only happens in a movie, but it’s real life,” said Mandi. “I don’t do the things that I do for myself or because I like being in the spotlight. I dislike it, actually. But I do for all the people that I love and all the people I don’t even know, so they will not have to go through what our family has been through.”
Although seeing what Caleb would like today was difficult for his family, they wanted people to see the severity of loss.
“Any awareness we can raise is great, but I really felt people seeing a personal story makes a stronger impact—more than someone just telling them not to do it,” explained Mandi. “Caleb was one of those people who wanted to help other people. He was always wanting to make other people happy and to make people smile. I feel like even though he is gone, I think he’s still helping people.”
According to AT&T, the company wanted to show “The Face of Distracted Driving” to convey the future of real lives that were robbed over a completely avoidable mistake.
“Caleb Sorohan who was from Rutledge, and a student at the University of North Georgia. Caleb was killed while texting and driving in 2009 – the Georgia 2010 texting law is called Caleb’s Law. In these new ads, award-winning filmmaker Errol Morris captured Caleb’s and another victim Forrest Cepeda’s heartbreaking stories through in-depth interviews with their families,” said Catherine Stengel, an AT&T Public Relations official. “In these short film productions, you’ll hear from loved ones as they remember their loss. And, through the collaboration of forensic artists and a visual effects team, you’ll even get a glimpse at what they would have looked like today. I will admit – as a mom to a young son – the ads are pretty tough to watch.”
Different versions of the ad will air at the movies, social channels and online.
“New research from AT&T shows 81 percent of people admit to texting behind the wheel. Since we launched It Can Wait in 2010, we’ve inspired nearly 25 million pledges to not drive distracted. This new ad campaign is the perfect reminder as Georgia enacts a new hands-free driving law on July 1,” said Stengel. “Sadly, texting while driving is responsible for the lives of two teenage boys featured in our new spots that shine a light on the faces of distracted driving. If Caleb Sorohan and Forrest Cepeda were alive today, they might be pursuing their dream jobs or teaching their kids to play sports. Maybe they’d still be figuring life out. But we’ll never know – smartphone distracted driving cut their lives short.”
To view the ads for AT&T’s new campaign, visit: www.about.att.com/inside_connections_blog/no_distraction.