Advocate helps mend families torn apart by drunken driving
Posted March 13
Durham, N.C. — Norwood Biggs and his sister-in-law have spent more days than they care to in a Durham County courtroom.
Biggs' brother, Kelwin Biggs, 53, was killed two years ago when his car was hit from behind on Fayetteville Road and and then collided head-on with another vehicle.
Darryl Brooks, 43, of Durham, who hit Kelwin Biggs' car, went on trial Monday on a charge of second-degree murder. Authorities said he was drunk at the time, and he had a previous impaired driving conviction.
"It’s like a bad dream you never get to wake up from," Norwood Biggs said. "It’s changed the dynamic of my family significantly."
For the past two years, whenever the Biggs family has been in court, Ollie Jeffers has been close at hand.
Jeffers, the president of Mothers Against Drunk Driving chapter for Durham, Person and Caswell counties, spends nearly every weekday in court.
"I do it because I care," Jeffers said. "We’ve all got to look out for one another. It’s very serious."
Her job is getting tougher.
After five years of decline, the number of alcohol-related fatalities on North Carolina roads jumped by 13 percent in 2015, the most recent year for which statistics are available, to 411 deaths.
"It somehow seems acceptable now for people to drink and drive," Jeffers said.
"This is a trend we’re facing right now. There’s a lot of variables, no one relationship that says this is why it’s happening," said Durham County Assistant District Attorney Dale Morrill, who prosecutes DWI cases.
Morrill did note an inverse relationship between DWI enforcement and fatalities.
"Statistically, DWI arrests are down, not just in Durham, across the state," he said. "Historically, as the motivation and attacking to stop DWIs went up, we saw fatalities go down."
Education and public awareness play a role in reversing 2015's rise in DWI deaths, he said, and Jeffers plays a role in that.
"When the public knows what’s happening in these courtrooms, that makes a difference," Morrill said, calling Jeffers "a guardian angel" for victims' families.
"Oftentimes, you’ll see that loss tear some people apart," he said. "Having someone who knows what it's like to go through those tribulations can help mend the family together."
Norwood Biggs said Jeffers has helped his family navigate the court system as they seek justice for his brother's death.
"It’s been comforting. She’s helped my father, my family in general, with the support," he said. "It bothers me that people don't give a second thought about drinking and driving and how it will affect someone else if something happens."