Logging Death Brings Attention to Repeat Offenders
Posted June 4, 1997 12:00 a.m. EDT
RALEIGH — You see the pictures on the news probably once a week. Mangled metal and shattered glass. A deadly car accident. What you might not know is that the same person can cause these deadly accidents again and again and still stay behind the wheel.
Many people believe a weak law is contributing to the danger of repeat offenders. Under state statute, a misdemeanor death by motor vehicle conviction results in a mandatory one year suspension of a driver's license. But the District Attorney's office could find no provision, no further punishment for a repeat offender.
There was some grieving to do in Fuquay Varina. June 2nd, 72-year-old Ada Upchurch died. Police say a logging truck driver plowed through a red light in downtown Fuquay, killing the grandmother. Trucker Steven Coffey is now charged with misdemeanor death by motor vehicle. Three years ago Coffey was convicted of the same charge.
The whole situation has Upchurch's son mad. Eddie Wimberly says it angers him and other people that they depend on the justice system to take care of repeat offenders. Then, when it comes to his mother's situation, the repeat offender gets just a misdemeanor.
Wimberly is also the captain of the Cary Rescue Squad. He's outraged at the situation involving his mother's death. But, he points out that not enough people feel the same way until it hits close to home. Thoughts shared by the State Highway Patrol.
Sergeant Jeff Winstead agrees the general public possibly lacks outrage until it strikes someone close. It often takes an accident to happen to someone in your family, your community, or your neighborhood before you really stand up and take notice.
Ada Upchurch's loved ones notice it. They want change on the state level to crack down on repeat offenders who kill behind the wheel. That means toughening the laws to make the penalty fit the crime.
There has been a lot of attention on laws dealing with drunk drivers who kill. Many people are pleased with the get tough approach there. But as you might imagine, other deadly accidents can be just as tragic and painful. Many more people want change.