Local News

Death Isn't the Only Tragedy to Come from Drunk Driving

Posted April 11, 1997 12:00 a.m. EDT

— A Cumberland County woman is in jail, charged with drunk driving and child abuse. Wanda Thames, 37, drove her car up a guide wire to a telephone pole Friday morning.

Thames has been charged with child abuse because a 7-year-old was in the car with her at the time of the accident.

No one was seriously injured in that accident, but WRAL-TV5's Bret Baier talked with one woman who wasn't so lucky. Anita Byrd says she was all ready for her wedding, which was set for April 15, 1984 when the unbelievable happened.

It was only a short drive to the florist where Byrd was to pick up her bridal bouquet, but at a fork in the road, her life took a permanent turn for the worst. A drunk driver crossed over to her side of the road hitting her head-on.

The drunk driver, who had been convicted of DWI three times before, walked away from the crash. Byrd will never walk again. As a result of the accident, she became paralyzed from the shoulders down.

After the accident, Byrd spent eight months in a hospital. The drunk driver was charged with a misdemeanor, then fled the state on appeal and never served any time.

Since the crash, Anita has been on a crusade. She uses a mouth-stick and computer to type letters to legislators, pleading for tougher sentences for drunk drivers.

Anita Byrd never got the bridal bouquet she was shopping for, and the wedding was cancelled. She turned her anger into action.

Byrd is a big supporter of two bills currently pending in the North Carolina House and Senate. Each includes a mandatory one-year sentence for habitual drunk drivers, mandatory alcohol counseling, and confiscation of vehicles driven by drunk drivers.

Both bills are still in committee.