Mother makes forward step in quest for drowsy driving legislation

Published 2:27 am Saturday, February 6, 2016

If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.

That’s a mantra Andalusia’s Shelia Faulkner has lived by the past three legislative sessions.

Faulkner has been working tirelessly to get a drowsy driving law passed in Alabama.

She’s spent countless hours talking on the phone to legislators, raising awareness on the Capitol grounds, and telling her story to anyone who will listen.

Some nine years ago, Faulkner lost her son in a fatal accident.

Wendall G. Williams, 28, was a passenger in the car, and by accounts, riding with a man who had been awake between 22 to 30 hours before he fell asleep at the wheel that November morning in 2006. The driver was not charged nor given any traffic citations.

“Wendall and his friend had gone out to a club in Opp the night before,” she said. “The driver wasn’t drunk, but he’d been up 22 hours. They were coming up the Martin Luther King Jr., what I call Speedway, when the car ran off the road, went six feet up a railroad crossing pole and landed on its top.

“My son did everything right,” she said. “He was wearing his seat belt, but they said he died from blunt force trauma to the head. The driver ended up being fine.”

Faulkner may be well on her way to getting her wishes for laws governing drowsy driving.

She said Friday she will go before the Senate Judiciary committee on Wednesday to testify in support of a bill proposed by Sen. Jimmy Holley.

“This is the first time I’ve spoken to a committee,” she said. “I’m so excited. I don’t even know what to say. I can’t bring mine back, but I hope I can keep another parent from going through the pain of losing their child.”

Holley, who represents Covington County in the state senate, is sponsoring SB134.

Currently, state law holds that a person commits the crime of criminally negligent homicide if he or she causes the death of another person by criminal negligence.

Criminal negligent homicide is a Class A misdemeanor unless the person commits the offense while driving a vehicle or vessel while intoxicated.

The bill would provide that a person commits the crime of criminally negligent homicide if the person causes the death of another person as a result of operating a motor vehicle, an aircraft, or a vessel while fatigued.

Criminally negligent homicide under these circumstances would be punishable as a Class C felony.

The term fatigued in this bill means having been without sleep for a period of 24 consecutive hours.