Reckless driving that kills emergency worker may become felony under Va. bill
"Andrew's Law" proposes a $2.5K minimum fine and one year suspended license for driving that causes the injury or death of an on-scene responder
By Allie Robinson Gibson
Bristol Herald Courier
BRISTOL, Va. — The family of a Virginia State Trooper from Tazewell who died after being struck by a vehicle while working traffic at the Virginia State Fair in 2012 wants stricter penalties for drivers whose reckless driving results in the death of emergency workers.
Andrew Fox, 27, was killed Oct. 5, 2012, as he worked special assignment directing traffic. A Jeep Cherokee driven by Angelica C. Valencia, 27, of Doswell, Va., ran over him and he was pinned beneath it.
Troopers worked to extricate Fox, but he died later at the hospital from his injuries, police said at the time. Valencia was convicted last year on one misdemeanor charge of reckless driving and received a suspended sentence of a year in jail. She paid a fine of $1,000, according to court records.
Bills introduced by state Delegate Will Morefield, R-Tazewell, and Sen. Phillip Puckett, D-Lebanon, would make reckless driving that causes the injury or death of an on-duty law enforcement worker, emergency medical services provider, highway worker or firefighter a felony.
The bills, which are being called “Andrew’s Law,” propose that it be a Class 6 felony, with a mandatory $2,500 minimum fine, and that the driver’s license be suspended for a year.
“It’s important to us because of what happened to Andrew,” said Lauren Fox, Andrew’s sister.
She and her family encouraged legislators to introduce the bill. A change.org petition was made requesting the law, and photos of Andrew, along with the bill numbers and a plea for people to talk with their local legislators about supporting the bill, have circulated on Facebook.
“We felt helpless because we couldn’t do anything,” Lauren Fox said of her brother’s death and the court case that followed.
She said workers like her brother need to have some sense of security while they’re working in traffic, because that’s where they have to be to do their jobs.
“There should be some penalty on the driver if they take someone’s life,” Fox said, adding that there are harsher penalties for those who are drinking and driving or texting and driving. “There’s not enough for people who are just not paying attention.”
Puckett said the bill is important on behalf of the family.
“I certainly hope they will get some feeling of comfort,” he said. “It could maybe save the life of someone else.”
Fox said the bill might help another family.
“It’s just heartbreaking,” said. [We don’t want] to have what happened to us happen to someone else.”
She said her brother always talked about going back to school to become a lawyer and then a judge, because he saw firsthand that sometimes judge’s rulings, and the law, aren’t fair.
Lauren Fox said she urges people to contact their local legislators in support of the bills.
“It’s a short, sweet letter and email” to send, Fox said. “And they need to get to it soon because it’s going to be [voted upon] soon. People should also write to the governor, because without his support, this won’t be a law.”
House bill No. 1148 and Senate bill No. 293 have been referred to their respective courts of justice committees. Both committees meet Monday.
|McClatchy-Tribune News Service|