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Highway Patrol Hopes to Drive More People to Call With Accident Information

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HOLLY SPRINGS — Every year, nearly 5,700 drivers leave the scene of an accident in North Carolina. In some cases, the victims are seriously injured, or even killed. Only a handful of the drivers responsible are ever caught.

Preston Alligood, 27, has traded in his motorcycle for another two-wheel vehicle: a wheelchair. Alligood was forced off Highway 401 in Fuquay-Varina by a car on August 17. The driver never stopped.

The experience has made a lasting impression on his girlfriend.

"The first people I saw were the trauma nurse and the chaplain, holding all of his belongings," Charlotte Harrison says. "My heart sank."

Now Harrison wants drivers who witness hit-and-run accidents to call police.

"If it was their family member they would want someone to do that for them. Everybody should do that for each other," she says.

Between one-third and one-half of the calls which come into theHighway PatrolCommunications Center are from cellular phones.

Highway Patrol Sgt. Jeff Winstead hopes the phones drive more people to call with information. "That one piece of information, that one piece of the puzzle might be what it takes to solve the case," Winstead says.

It will take months for the fractures in Alligood's legs to heal, but solving the case would bring him a different kind of closure.

"It would be nice for them to come forward," he says. "It's been tough on us."

The Highway Patrol urges anyone involved in an accident, or anyone who witnesses an accident, to call authorities immediately.