BUFORD -- Nathan Sidey hadn't reached his second birthday when his father was killed in a Florida car accident, hit head-on by a drunk 17-year-old out for a joyride in a stolen car.
As he showed state officials the last photo taken of his dad cradling him, the Dillard, Ga., teen proposed stiff penalties for teens caught driving under the influence, including a six-month license suspension for young drivers found with just 0.02 blood alcohol content and 12 months suspension, 12 months of an ignition interlock system and 40 hours of community service for teens who blow above the adult limit of 0.08.
"I don't want someone else's life to change like mine did," Sidey said during the presentation at Lake Lanier Islands Conference Center of the Georgia Governor's Commission on Teen Driving, a group of 22 teens who studied issues for five months to stop teen driving deaths.
But after a generation of hearing the Mothers Against Drunk Driving message, the teens' message centered more on other forms of distracted driving, especially texting while driving.
The teens said all of their peers know that driving while under the influence of alcohol is wrong, but few recognize the dangers of texting. Since parents often pay the fine, the youth said officials should consider punishments the teen will be more upset about, like taking away a parking permit at school or community service.
Griffin Sorohan, a Morgan County teen, told the story of his brother Caleb, who was the namesake of the 2009 Caleb's Law, after he lost control of his car while texting.
"No one else should experience that," Sorohan said, pushing for a punishment increased from a $150 fine closer to the DUI level of $1,000. "It didn't only take his life. It took a part of ours."
Gwinnett Fire Chief Bill Myers said his department all too often sees the negative results of distracted young drivers.
"It's a great example of what informed teenagers here can teach others but also their parents," he said of the presentation. "It was awesome."
Sen. Butch Miller, R-Gainesville, said he was proud of the youngsters.
"This is the kind of information and the kind of testimony that is compelling," Miller said. "(Parents) should be very, very proud of you for taking this issue up that doesn't always make you popular with your friends back at school. ... Y'all are doing the right thing."