What’s more tragic than a driving under the influence (DUI) crash involving young people? Families who have lost a young loved one due to drunk driving have said it feels impossible to move on, and healing can only begin when they stand up and try to save another family from experiencing the same grief. That’s what the motivation was behind West Virginia’s latest DUI legislation, and now that it has finally passed into law, two families can feel as though they’ve made a difference in the fight against drunk driving.
The families of Andrea Bailes and Willy Shuman have been pushing for stricter DUI laws in West Virginia since they lost their children in separate DUI crashes. Prior to the passing of House Bill 2664, otherwise known as Andrea and Willy’s Law, drunk drivers were walking away with penalties that didn’t fit the crime.
Andrea Bailes was only 14 when she was involved in a DUI crash that claimed her life. For her family, it was too much to bear that the driver would only receive a minimal jail sentence and be able to move on with his life. Willy Shuman, a West Virginia University student, was killed in a drunk driving crash caused by a friend of his. Although the driver admitted he was drunk and caused the crash, the maximum sentence was one year in jail.
With the passing of Andrea and Willy’s Law, penalties for driving under the influence of alcohol, controlled substances, or drugs will increase in West Virginia. From now on, all DUI crashes resulting in death will be an automatic felony offense, and jail time will increase from 2 to 10 years to 3 to 15 years. Lawmakers have also made it a felony if you cause a DUI-related crash that results in serious bodily injury, and penalties will increase for 3rd time or more DUI offenders.
These changes come after West Virginia made another big change in 2008, requiring mandatory ignition interlock devices for all offenders. Because of that law, drunk driving deaths have since dropped by 36% in the state.
Although the new law can’t bring back Andrea Bailes and Willy Shuman, maybe the message will get through to the people of West Virginia who are still tempted to drink and drive—crashes can happen to you or someone you love, so don’t get behind the wheel after drinking.