By MELINDA WILLIAMS
The fact a motorist who struck and killed Pulaski County-based State Trooper Andrew Fox was convicted of only a misdemeanor has the officer’s family pushing for a change in Virginia’s reckless driving laws.
“The idea that life can be stolen for only a misdemeanor while theft of $300 is considered a felony made his death seem even more of a waste,” said Fox’s sister, Lauren Fox.
As a result, she said, the trooper’s family is working with legislators to introduce what is being called “Andrew’s Law” during the 2014 Virginia General Assembly, which opens Wednesday in Richmond. If passed, the law would make reckless driving a Class 6 felony in Virginia if an emergency worker is injured or killed by a motorist.
The proposed legislation has yet to be assigned a bill number. However, Fox said it is being introduced in the Senate by 38th District Senator Phillip Puckett and in the House of Delegates by 3rd District Delegate James W. (Will) Morefield.
The new law would pertain to “reckless driving that causes the death or serious physical injury of a law-enforcement officer, emergency medical services personnel, highway worker or firefighter engaged in his duties.”
As a Class 6 felony, anyone convicted under the statute would be subject to a $2,500 mandatory minimum fine and the court would be required to suspend the guilty party’s driver’s license for a year. The bill also allows the court to impose a civil penalty of up to $10,000, with those proceeds being deposited into the state’s general fund.
The driver who struck and killed Andrew Fox while he was directing traffic at the Virginia State Fair Oct. 5, 2012 was convicted of misdemeanor reckless driving. She was fined $1,000 and given a suspended 12-month jail sentence.
“The driver of the Jeep had already traveled through the state police controlled intersection once before, returning through the intersection and failing to slow down,” said Lauren Fox. “She was traveling 37 miles per hour in a 35 miles per hour zone. Two other lanes stopped but she continued through, killing my brother.”
She added of the motorist, “Her reckless disregard stole the life of my brother, a man who was loved and respected by all who knew him.”
Fox’s family is urging Virginians who support the bill to contact their state representatives to urge them to support it.
“Tell them about Andrew, other emergency responders who are heroes to them, this bill, and why they support it,” said Lauren Fox. “With the passing of this bill and public education, we hope to show Virginia’s heroes we care about their safety as they put their lives in danger to make our lives safer.”
She continued, “We also hope to send a message to drivers to slow down when they see emergency lights and pay closer attention while driving on Virginia’s roads.”