When something goes terribly wrong in an operating room and a life is needlessly lost, the legal system often faces the tough task of attaching monetary value to such a death. The sum that is calculated is often in the millions of dollars.
By contrast, in the great Commonwealth of Virginia, laws align in such a way that a Virginia State Trooper recently killed while performing his duties generated only a $1000 fine for the driver that ran him over.
In October 2012, 27-year old State Trooper Andrew Fox died while directing traffic at the Virginia State Fair. Fox and his fellow troopers were directing traffic as it left the interstate. One driver failed to acknowledge them, and Fox lost his life.
In part because of the way current law is written, the driver merely received a reckless driving citation. In a Hanover County hearing, she pled “no contest” in a plea bargain. Her punishment? A $1000 fine and a 12-month suspended jail sentence.
Dedication to public service had spanned the generations in the Fox family. Andrew’s father David is a Richlands, VA police officer.
Now, the Fox family is working with State Senator Phillip Puckett to seek legislation that will provide for felony charges when a trooper dies in a crash while performing his/her duties. David Fox is seeking the introduction and passage of “Andrew’s Law.”
To generate support for this proposed legislation, Andrew’s father is seeking signatures on a petition to be delivered to 38th District State Senator Puckett. In support of this petition, North Tazewell resident Stephen Gunter wrote: “Without harsher punishment, you are basically placing a $1000 value on the lives of all emergency personnel working on our roadways-and that is absurd!”
Sen. Puckett intends to work with the Virginia State Police and Andrew’s family to determine what minimum penalties new legislation should require. He expects to seek formal change in the statutes in the legislative term commencing in January 2014.
Officer David Fox feels compassion that extends to all of those that conduct risky work out on the road, including construction crews and tow-truck drivers. His hope is that the awareness that “Andrew’s Law” would generate could very well save lives in the future. And that would become an important and enduring tribute to Trooper Andrew Fox.