It’s all too easy for a driver to make the decision to take their eyes off the road. In most cases, it goes without consequence, and the driver resumes paying attention after a brief moment. Sometimes, however, this can be a deadly mistake.
For 19-year-old Angelina Holloway, the temptation to look at her phone while driving proved to be too much. She sent a text to her boyfriend seconds before dying behind the wheel. And when her last message was uncovered, it galvanized a local campaign that would touch drivers everywhere.
Before her accident, Angelina apparently lived an exemplary life. The teenager thrived while helping others: she volunteered in her church’s children’s ministry and hoped to study psychology at Southeastern University, a Christian institution in Lakeland, Florida.
Angelina’s penchant for public service likely inspired her to sign up for a missionary trip to Uganda – just before her accident, she had learned that she had earned a spot on the international scheme. It was all part of her plan to see the world.
And the 19-year-old also seemed to be doing well in her homelife and at work. She had started dating a new guy and had begun working at a local restaurant, Sonny’s BBQ in Bushnell. On April 18, 2016, she finished an extra-long shift at the eatery before heading home.
“She had called earlier and said she was working a double,” Angelina’s mom, Marvalene Corlett, told the Citrus County Chronicle. “I said, ‘OK. Be careful. I love you,’ and she said, ‘I love you, too.’ And she left work around 2:00 p.m.”
Within 15 minutes, a police deputy would find the teen’s car off the side of County Road 48, with her lifeless body inside. According to her mother’s recollection, the police believed that the 19-year-old had been driving too fast and had come off the road at a bend. She had then whipped the wheel, perhaps in an attempt to dodge a tree in her path.
However, rather than hitting the trunk head-on, she crashed into it on her left side. “She swerved and hit the tree on the driver’s side and her head hit the tree,” Marvalene said. By the time a police deputy had arrived, she was dead – and it was apparent that she had died on impact.
In the wreckage of the crash lay a piece of evidence that indicated just why Angelina’s young life had come to an end. “When I found her phone the next day, it was in the rubble in her car, under everything,” Marvalene told Fox News.
On that phone was a time-stamped message that painted a clearer picture of the last minutes of Angelina’s life. At 2:11 p.m., while she must still have been driving, she sent her boyfriend a text. With the benefit of hindsight, the sentiment it conveyed was heartbreaking.
“I can’t wait to see you this weekend!!!” she typed into her phone. Just minutes later, at 2:15 p.m., a police deputy discovered the crash site. For her mother, the realization that Angelina had been texting and driving was hard to swallow.
“It was devastating because she knew better,” Marvalene told Fox News. She added to the Citrus County Chronicle. “She had her seatbelt on – she was a seatbelt fanatic. But texting – we had talked about that.”
But one year after Angelina’s death – the day, as Marvalene described it to Fox News, that “life turned for all of us” – her mom decided to use her story to inspire others to make better choices.
She partnered with local police officers in Citrus County, where Angelina’s accident had taken place, in order to raise public awareness of the risks of texting while driving. They launched their joint campaign, #JustDriveCitrus, in December 2017.
The centerpiece of their effort was a banner designed to get an emotional response from everyone who saw it. Next to Angelina’s senior photo from her final year at Citrus High School, there was a screenshot of the last text message that she had sent before her deadly crash.
Next to the banner, Deputy Michelle Tewell said that there would be a wrecked vehicle as a further reminder of the dangers of texting and driving. “I want it to hit the heart,” Deputy Tewell told Fox News. “I want them to see that it’s a reality, that it does happen. It took Angelina’s life, but it also impacted her family and all her friends, so it’s not worth it.”
Deputy Tewell’s passion stemmed from the fact that the number of traffic accidents in Citrus County rose by 17 percent in 2017. And because of this, the annual police drunk driving campaign was extended to also highlight the risks of texting while driving. “More people have cellphones than take a drink of alcohol,” Deputy Tewell noted.
For Marvalene, the cause of her daughter’s death would have a two-fold impact on her life. On the one hand, she found herself sorrowful every time she saw a person using their phone while behind the wheel. “I see it constantly, and it breaks my heart, especially now,” she told the Citrus County Chronicle.
But she also noted a silver lining: her daughter’s friends completely changed their behavior when it came to texting. “She’s already changed lives,” Marvalene told Fox News. “A lot of [her friends] don’t text. They put the phone up and away.”
She has also found solace in her positive memories of her daughter – the 19-year-old who was happiest while caring for others. “She was such a good kid,” Marvalene told Fox News. “I don’t worry about where she is – I’m at peace with that.”