During the month of August in Georgia and especially this past week, there have been a tremendous number of DUI accidents and traffic accidents. This has been a month of some very poor decisions for people and some terrible consequences for others.
First, some new information has been released concerning the Walton County Bus Driver that was charged with DUI and Child Endangerment last week. The dash cam video has been released showing Carole Ann Etheridge crossing the center lane into oncoming traffic multiple times as children screamed in the back of the bus. She even missed the entrance into the school and told the children that she was not feeling well. The students began contacting their parents who in turn notified the school system. Ms. Etheridge will be facing substantial Georgia DUI Penalties for her actions.
Because police officers see drunk driving accidents and make DUI arrests all the time, it is shocking when a police officer is arrested for driving drunk. Jerry James Phipps, a Douglasville Police Officer, was relieved from his position after he drove drunk with an 11-year-old child on the back of his motorcycle as well as allegedly exposing himself to families at a gas station. The officers that pulled Phipps over noticed that he kept his mouth closed the majority of the time and walked extremely slow as if to make each step concentrated and deliberate. The troopers did not notice any alcohol odor until Phipps finally spoke. He was charged with DUI, public indecency, and DUI Child Endangerment.
One of the heartbreaking stories this month was the death of 31-year-old dad, Chase Chapman. Chapman was on his way to work at the Atlanta Chick Fil A when a drunk driver t-boned his car at the intersection of Spaulding Drive and Peachtree Parkway and killed him. Chapman left a 5-year-old son, Wesley, behind. Chapman's mother and father have started a GoFundMe page to raise money for Wesley. Chapman's father wrote on the page “If you can't give money, please give your word that you won't drink and drive.”
Another shocking story is the upcoming termination of Cobb County Police Lieutenant Greg Abbott. Abbott pulled a woman over for a suspected DUI and was caught on video telling the woman that cops only shoot black people. The footage is from July 2016, but the footage was not discovered until Wednesday evening. Abbott had been on the force for 28 years, and Chief of Police Mike Register stated at a press conference that his comments were “very inappropriate for any police officer to say that, but especially one of our leaders in the department.” During the press conference, Abbott sent an email to the county announcing his retirement, which has been accepted by the county. He will receive his full retirement benefits.
A man was charged with first-degree homicide by vehicle, aggressive driving, reckless driving, improper slowing or stopping on a roadway and violating a law that says a pedestrian must walk on a sidewalk or shoulder of a roadway on Tuesday, August 29, 2017. Juan Marquez was driving down I-85 in Coweta County when a rock hit his windshield and cracked it. Marquez believed that the rock came from a tractor-trailer that was driving near him, so he proceeded to stop his vehicle on the interstate to “consult with the driver of the semi-truck.” Marquez's stop forced the tractor-trailer to stop on the interstate as well, and an SUV slammed into the back of the truck. The driver of the SUV, Jessica Jose, 32, died at the scene of the accident leaving behind five children. A GoFundMe page has been set up to help raise funds for Jose's children.
Another terrible accident occurred on I-20 on Thursday, August 30th, 2017 that shut down the interstate for several hours. An unidentified driver was heavily speeding and hit a Dodge Ram and a Ford Mustang that were slowing down for traffic from an earlier accident. The heavy delays lasted for hours, and some cars did not move from 4:45 a.m. to 7:30 a.m.
Just yesterday morning, a pedestrian woman was killed in South Fulton County. The woman has not been identified, but the driver stayed on the scene.
Lastly, this afternoon a Gwinnett County Police Department helicopter went down while assisting in a car chase. GCPD was using one of their helicopters to assist with a car chase of a wanted subject when the weather got bad. The helicopter was headed back to the hanger but ended up crashing at Briscoe Field in Gwinnett County. There were two officers/pilots on board, and one officer was able to exit. The other officer was extricated by Gwinnett Fire and transferred to Gwinnett Medical Hospital.
This has been a horrific week of accidents in Georgia. As we go into the Labor Day holiday weekend, please remember to drive safely and pay attention while driving. Also, we hope you learn from the incidents that have happened this week with regard to drinking and driving. Remember, the penalties for a DUI in Georgia can be harsh. Be safe and have a happy Labor Day weekend.