Local News

Blackwell Speaks Out on CNN for Tougher DWI Laws

Posted June 28, 1998 7:00 a.m. EDT

— Another summer holiday weekend is approaching, during which people will celebrate the 4th of July and possibly travel to visit friends and family.

Troopers will be out in force as well, making sure the roads are safe from drunk drivers such as Timothy Blackwell.

The story of Blackwell and his habit of driving drunk along North Carolina roads is still getting a lot of national attention. Blackwell is the man who killed 4-year-old Megan Dail in a collision in February, 1997 and became the second person convicted in North Carolina of first degree murder in a drunken driving death.

Now he's speaking publicly about his deadly habit and shining more light on North Carolina's efforts to stop drunk driving.

"I don't think he could be sorry, because he knew what he was doing," says Megan Dail's father Gregory.

What Blackwell did that day in Durham in 1997 changed Dail's life forever.

Blackwell was drunk and high on heroin when he smashed his pickup truck into the Dail's minivan. Megan was thrown from her carseat.

Her father says he knew immediately that she was dead.

Blackwell's conviction was also the second of its kind in the nation (the first was in Winston-Salem for the deaths of two Wake Forest students by another driver), but the story doesn't end there.

Blackwell had half a dozen convictions for drunk driving before that tragic day.

"When I first started drinking at the age of 15, when I was working and getting paid, I'd drink until drunkenness, more or less every day," Blackwell told CNN Sunday night.

"I drank every day ... at some point, mostly every day, I did drive," Blackwell said.

Blackwell's license was taken away 12 years ago, but that didn't stop him from taking the wheel time and again. He spent a few days in jail here and there, but not until his drunk driving cost the life of a child did the court system take him seriously.

Last year tough new drunk driving laws were passed to help keep repeat drunk drivers, like Blackwell, off North Carolina's roads.

"And I'm just truly sorry for what I caused," said Blackwell.

Karyn Brown of North Carolina's Mothers Against Drunk Driving said it was eerie to finally hear Blackwell speak in an effort to curb drunk driving.

Representatives from Governor Jim Hunt's Highway Safety Program and from MADD, will participate in a kick-off for the state's 1998 "Booze It and Lose It" campaign.

That begins Monday at Jordan Lake.