‘Drowsy driving mom’ headed back to Goat Hill for legislative session

Published 12:00 am Thursday, January 26, 2017

The state legislature convenes in less than two weeks, and a local woman is headed back to Goat Hill to fight for her cause.

Sheila Faulkner, who lost her son in an automobile accident more than 10 years ago, said this will be the fourth year she’s journeyed to Montgomery to try to persuade state lawmakers to pass a bill regarding drowsy driving.

Chuck and Shelia Faulkner hold signs outside the state house.

Chuck and Shelia Faulkner hold signs outside the state house.

She’s living by the motto, “if at first you don’t succeed, try, again.”

According to police reports, the driver of the vehicle her son was in had been up between 22 and 30 hours before he fell asleep at the wheel that morning.

Faulkner’s son, Wendall Williams, was 28 when he died.

The driver was not charged or given any traffic citations.

Drowsy driving is implicated in 100,000 car crashes per year, leaving 71,000 people injured and 1,500 dead, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Faulkner said she’s been talking to the Alabama Department of Transportation as well as a man in New Jersey, who has been involved in Maggie’s Law.

In New Jersey, a sleep-deprived driver qualifies as a reckless driver and can be convicted of vehicular homicide. Maggie’s Law defines fatigue as being without sleep for more than 24 consecutive hours and makes driving while fatigued a criminal offense.

“We’ve asked him to come down and send paperwork about their law and how they prove it,” she said. “That’s one of the main things that has been holding things up. There is a question about how do they detect drowsy driving and how are they going to enforce it once it’s on the books. I’m hoping that the guy from New Jersey can help with that.”

Faulkner said she plans to speak to legislators again.

“I’m going to ask them for a moment to walk in a mother’s shoes or walk in a father’s shoes,” she said. “I know I can’t get Wendall back, but I want to do all I can to stop this from happening to someone else’s child. I’m never going to give up.”

Faulkner said she plans to wear her T-shirt with her son’s photo on it and take a photo of the car from the wreck.

Despite the proposed law not being passed yet, Faulkner has gained some traction. Gov. Robert Bentley designated Nov. 19 as Drowsy Driving Awareness Day.