Local News

Unlicensed Drivers Don't Necessarily Stay Off Road

Posted March 6, 1997 12:00 a.m. EST

— Thousands of drunk drivers lose their licenses every year, but it doesn't always keep them off the road. In fact, you could be sharing the road with a habitual drunk driver any time you get behind the wheel.

WRAL-TV5'sAmanda Lambobserved a Raleigh man whose license had been permanently revoked, but who was still driving. Larry Blackburn's license was taken away after a series of drunk driving convictions, but that didn't stop him from driving his company's tow truck. Blackburn told Lamb he doesn't drink and drive now.

Larry Davis of the North Carolina Highway Patrol says it's not unusual to find people driving on revoked licenses.

In 1996 in North Carolina, nearly 116,000 people were convicted of driving with a revoked license. Troopers says they don't know how many of them were habitual drunk drivers, but last week a 4-year-old girl was killed when her family minivan was hit by a drunk driver whose license was permanently revoked several years ago.

Ironically, Riverview Towing was called to the scene of that accident. That's the company Blackburn works for, although Blackburn was not behind the wheel that day.

Riverview's owner Jeff Coffey says he didn't know Blackburn was driving a company truck, and that he should not have been.

When Blackburn realized he was being followed by the WRAL crew, he parked the truck and called his boss to pick him up. Now, he's out of a job.

The DMV, local police and troopers set up roadblocks to catch habitual drunk drivers, but, according to Davis, there is no guarantee such drivers will heed warnings and stay off the road.

Like many who lose their driving privileges, Blackburn says he has no choice but to get back behind the wheel.

But, Trooper Jeff Winstead says the frustration of not having a license cannot compare to the tragedy an unlicensed driver can cause.

WRAL wants to make it clear there is no evidence that Blackburn is currently drinking and driving, but the state continues to have a big problem with people who drive drunk, get caught, lose their licenses and continue to drive.

Police say if you know someone who drives drunk or if you see someone driving erratically, you should call law enforcement. They will need a good description of the person, the vehicle and the location.