Fluvanna Co. Couple Aims to Change Law on DUIs following Near-Fatal Accident
A Fluvanna County family is hoping to change state law after a head-on collision almost killed their young daughter.
FLUVANNA COUNTY, Va. (WVIR) - A Fluvanna County family is hoping to change state law after a head-on collision almost killed their young daughter, Claire.
The bill, which was introduced by Delegate Rob Bell, would make it a Class 4 felony to cause serious bodily harm to another while driving under the influence.
After a near-fatal car crash, the Petrylak family has been working with state legislators to fix what they're calling a loophole when it comes to DUI penalties in the commonwealth.
"We were about half a mile away from the entrance to our neighborhood when I was hit head-on by a drunk driver,” Amanda Perylak, Claire's mother, said.
The lives of the Petrylak family changed in the blink of an eye.
"Found Claire laying in the middle of the road, wrapped up in a good Samaritan’s jacket just laying motionless, and Amanda propped up against a car,” John Petrylak, Claire’s father, said.
Amanda and her daughter Claire, who was six years old at the time, were in a nearly fatal head-on collision in November of 2017.
The accident caused serious damage to Claire's spine.
"She broke the C6 and C7 vertebrae in her neck,” Amanda said. “She sustained extensive ligament damage to the ligaments that attach your head to your neck, and was basically almost internally decapitated."
The man charged with his first drunk driving offense is set to appear in court this July, but the family says justice still won't be served.
"When we found out it was just going to be a misdemeanor charge, it was a completely hopeless feeling for me,” John said.
Since the accident, the Petrylaks have been working with the commonwealth's attorney and Delegate Rob Bell to bring about change in the legal system.
House Bill 1941 would make it a Class 4 felony to cause serious bodily harm to another person while driving under the influence of alcohol.
“As medical technology has gotten better you have easily very serious accidents, but because the doctors are so good people are recovering so much better,” Bell said. “They don't meet that very high standard for very serious injury."
State law currently reads that if a person is seriously injured by a drunk driver but does not sustain lifelong injuries, the driver cannot be charged with anything above a misdemeanor.
The Petrylaks hope no one else will have to face this issue if the law is changed.
“For us, from an emotional standpoint, there's no amount of prosecution that would feel appropriate for what Claire went through but we just really feel like from a legal standpoint there should've been more options,” Amanda said.
The next step for the bill is to go in front of the Senate Finance Committee before going in front of the full House and Senate, then in front of the governor for final approval.