Local News

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

Posted Updated
April 11, 1996 accident, Cumberland County
RALEIGH — A Cumberland County woman is in jail, chargedwith drunk driving and child abuse. Wanda Thames, 37, drove her car up aguide wire to a telephone pole Friday morning.

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

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

It was only a short drive to the florist where Byrd was to pick up herbridal bouquet, but at a fork in the road, her life took a permanent turnfor the worst. A drunk driver crossed over to her side of the road hittingher 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 theaccident, she became paralyzed from the shoulders down.

After the accident, Byrd spent eight months in a hospital. The drunkdriver was chargedwith a misdemeanor, then fled the state on appeal and never served anytime.

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

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

Byrd is a big supporter of two bills currently pending in the NorthCarolina House and Senate. Each includes a mandatory one-year sentence forhabitual drunk drivers, mandatory alcohol counseling, and confiscation ofvehicles driven by drunk drivers.

Both bills are still in committee.

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