Driving, drugs and alcohol don't mix

Dec 13, 2012

“Drunk driving changes people’s lives, and it’s not worth it.”


These are the words of 14-year-old Andrew Woody of Waynesville, who was in a vehicle hit by a drunk driver in July.

Andrew was left unconscious when a driver who already had a pending DWI charge in Buncombe County, hit the vehicle being driven by his mother, Angela, head-on. Andrew recovered, but his mom is still in a rehabilitation facility where she hopes to learn how to walk again.

There’s a chance that won’t happen.

There have been drastic changes in lives of the Woody’s since that  Friday afternoon when mother and son were turning into their apartment complex off Old Balsam Road.

Andrew has been living with his aunt as his mom spent nearly five months in a hospital bed wondering if she would ever walk — or return home — again. Their ordeal is a long way from being over.

What makes the case even more tragic is that 27-year-old Jessica Simonds had a history of driving while intoxicated. She was convicted of driving drunk in Jackson County in 2008 and had a pending DWI charge in Buncombe County when she smashed into the Woodys this summer. Given national statistics showing that the average drunk driver has driven 80 times before his or her first arrest, the Simonds case is not an anomaly.

Simonds was sentenced to spend between 26 and 44 months behind bars for the Haywood tragedy, but somehow it doesn’t seem enough for the life-altering changes that rippled from her irresponsibility.

The Woodys, along with other area families whose lives have been inalterably changed by those driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, were part of an evening of remembrance last week sponsored by the regional Mothers Against Drunk Drivers organization.

Those at the ceremony form the core group of individuals in our county who are working tirelessly to prevent tragedies such as the one what claimed the life of Rebecca’s Justice’s son, Josh, and Trooper Anthony Cogdill, who was killed by a trucker who had cocaine in his system when he plowed into the on-duty officer making a traffic stop. Victims’ families, along with the law enforcement community, from officers to judges, are at the forefront when it comes to addressing the issues of drunk and drugged driving.

It is fitting to recognize their efforts, take their message to heart, and do all in our power to help spread it through every area where people gather in our community.