10 years after death, mother still fighting

Published 12:28 am Friday, November 11, 2016

Shown is the scene of the wreck that killed Shelia Faulkner’s son, Wendall, a decade ago.

Shown is the scene of the wreck that killed Shelia Faulkner’s son, Wendall, a decade ago.

Ten years. Make that 10 long years, Shelia Faulkner has been mourning the loss of her son.

But in those 10 years, she hasn’t cowed down either. If anything, she’s pushed onward to ensure that no mother has to endure the pain she’s gone through in the last decade.

During that time, Faulkner has told her story to anybody and everybody who will listen.

She’s been to Goat Hill more times than she can count, pleading with lawmakers to pass legislation on drowsy driving.

Faulkner lost her 28-year-old son, Wendall Williams, in November 2006. Williams was a passenger in the car, and by accounts, riding with a man who had been awake 22 to 30 hours before he fell asleep at the wheel that morning.

The driver was not charged, nor given any traffic citations.

Police reports from that day say law enforcement arrived to find a four-door Nissan Altima upside down in a drainage culvert on the north side of MLK bypass just west of the railroad crossing after going airborne.

The front end of the vehicle was pointing east and debris was scattered all over the road.

Two white males were lying on the ground face up, north of the vehicle. Williams was dead and the driver was still conscious.

In one police report, the driver stated he did not know who was driving. A family friend, who worked at the 4 Sons, said that the driver was driving the Altima when the pair left the club.

Faulkner has worked for the last three legislative sessions to get a bill passed penalizing those drowsy drivers who cause harm to others.

However, Faulkner’s efforts aren’t in vain.

“I just want to get awareness out there,” she said. “I’m never giving up on this.”

Gov. Robert Bentley has designated Nov. 19 as Drowsy Driving Awareness Day.

“That’s the 10-year anniversary of Wendall’s death,” Faulkner said. “I’m sad. It’s really hard, but I just want them to try to fix it so there are repercussions.”

A press release from Sen. Jimmy Holley’s office said that drowsy driving is a prevalent national public health and safety problem. Today’s fast-paced, high-stress world has caused everyone to deprioritize sleep.

Sleepiness has been identified as a casual factor in a growing number of highway automobile crashes.

In fact, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that at least 100,000 police-reported crashes each year are the direct result of driver fatigue.

And, 55 percent of all crashes in which the driver fell asleep at the wheel were of 25 and under.

“Drowsy driving is a public safety issue that needs to be addressed,” Holley said. “We believe the public can rally around this problem and improve the safety of our roads by supporting drowsy driving prevention efforts. By establishing a routine that fights fatigue and supports a healthy sleep lifestyle, we can save lives on the road ways. I am proud to continue the partnership with the Alabama Traffic Safety Prosecutor and the District Attorney’s Association to promote our state’s drowsy driving awareness day.”