Local News

Victims' families, MADD want changes to state DWI law

Posted January 28, 2011
Updated January 29, 2011

— Family members of two young women killed last summer by a drunken driver gathered outside the Wilson County Courthouse Friday to protest what they call a flaw in the legal system when it comes to driving while impaired laws.

The gathering was organized by family members of Nikki Whitley and Aimie Sullivan, who were hit and killed in June by a drunken driver.

Jimmy Coleman pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter in the case. Court records show his license was revoked at the time for a 2008 DWI conviction.

WRAL News has done several follow-up investigations into Coleman's case and Wilson County's high rate of dismissing traffic citations. So far, the district attorney’s office has declined to comment.

“Somewhere between the arrests and the convictions, they're falling through the cracks,” said Beth Parker, who’s concerned about the law and wants tougher penalties.

Her own family member, Peter Nowell, was expected in court Friday on DWI-related charges, but his case was delayed.

Records show Nowell has been arrested on DWI charges four times since 2009 and twice already this year on charges of driving with a revoked license.

“He's going to kill somebody,” Parker said. “He's going to kill himself or somebody else. That’s the bottom line, if he's not taken off of the streets.”

Victims' families seek changes to state DWI law Victims' families seek changes to state DWI law

Craig Lloyd, executive director of Mothers Against Drunk Driving in North Carolina, said the group is pushing for a new state law requiring ignition interlock systems as part of punishment to help reduce repeat offenses.

It requires a person to blow into a device to prove he or she is sober before starting a car.

“We've seen other states across the United States that have seen that implemented for all offenders, and they've seen dramatic decreases in arrests and dramatic decreases in deaths and injuries,” Lloyd said.

Parker and others say tougher penalties could have saved the lives of Whitley and Sullivan.

“I want to know that I did what I could do to prevent that from happening (again),” Parker said. “I've done my part. Now the court needs to do theirs.”


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  • r u crazy too Jan 28, 2011

    We probably can't stop the problem, but we can hold people responsible for their action. So pass laws that prevent lawyers from plea bargaining drunk driving; and speeding cases. Make ignition interlock mandatory after first offense. After second offense, confiscate the vehicle and auction it off. NO EXCEPTIONS!

  • John Sawtooth Jan 28, 2011

    I empathize with the family, my father was killed (I nearly was too) by a repeat DWI offender. Instead of tougher penalties, our already tough penalties must be enforced consistently by judges.

    Repeat offenders are a somewhat different issue - stiff penalties do not stop them. In our case, the young man served 7 years in prison, and instead of reforming, continued to offend until his early death some years later.

  • Sassie10 Jan 28, 2011

    This should be addressed asap....too many repeat offenders take peoples lives.

  • RB-1 Jan 28, 2011

    Driving, whether we want to acknowledge it or not, may be a privilege according to the law, but is truly a decision according to human nature.

    When those too selfish to consider the needs of others makes a choice to drink and drive, whether they've been convicted numerous times or have had their license revoked, what is the law to do?

    The only way one could truly inhibit them would be to disable their bodies from the limbs required to drive, and that then, would make us just as inhumane as they are.

  • happymom Jan 28, 2011

    This is a law I can get behind. My heart goes out to those who have lost loved ones to the thoughtless, heartless actions of a drunk driver.

  • RB-1 Jan 28, 2011

    I agree, but how are we to keep those without licenses from driving? Cut off their hands or feet?

    < that was sarcasm >

    There are some who are too selfish to ever consider the needs or lives of others, and that's why repeat offenders get back behind the wheel of a car without a driver's license.

    Selfishness is a part of human nature for some, and we can't change that.

  • james27613 Jan 28, 2011

    Even better way to help stop this, impound the car and Confiscate it, just like they do when you buy illegal drugs,
    you loose the car if convicted.

    Every night I drive past the intersection here in Raleigh
    where a 20yr old young lady lost her life due to a DUI driver.
    He hit her car 90MPH in a 45 ZONE.


  • ForThaBirdz Jan 28, 2011

    As a person that has had a DWI and the ignition interlock in my vehicle i think its a great way of deterring people who have a alcohol problem from getting behind the wheel. I thank every day that i didn't kill someone or myself. Too bad this isn't the total solution. Its also about people learning to control their habits. Even if that requires serious help.

  • james27613 Jan 28, 2011

    Lockout devices will make no difference.
    They will find another car to drive illegally.

    >>Court records show his license was revoked at the time for a 2008 DWI conviction.

  • yankee17 Jan 28, 2011

    In California, a DUI is a felony...They don't care if it's your first offense. I cannot believe how lenient the laws are here...Especially if you are a repeat offender.