Tragedy spurs lawmakers to consider strengthening medical checks for SC drivers

Tragedy spurs lawmakers to consider strengthening medical checks for SC drivers

(WMBF) - Dangerous drivers on South Carolina roads are finally getting legislators' attention.

In 2014, in a WMBF News investigation, the reality of these drivers taking chances on the roads with your life was featured. Now, one family has taken their fight all the way to the statehouse.

Patricia Skipper's family won't give up on her. They want to see changes made to state law, in her honor, to vindicate her death at the hands of a driver who they say shouldn't have been behind the wheel in the first place.

"I guess our mission has gone from trying to get justice for Pat, to trying to keep this from happening to another family," her brother, Freddy Campbell, told WMBF News.

Skipper was killed on Main Street in Marion after another driver, going more than 3 times the speed limit, slammed into her car, sending it into a tree. The report by South Carolina Highway Patrol's accident investigation team found the driver suffered a seizure behind the wheel that day, but it wasn't the first time.

"In the case of my sister, the guy who hit her had several accidents, had seizures, [didn't] take medication, no one reported anything to the DMV, still drives, killed my sister, still drives, no one's taken the time to report anything," Campbell says, exasperated.

South Carolina is a self-reporting state, which puts the burden on drivers to tell the DMV if they suffer a medical condition that could lead to an accident. The driver who killed Skipper had at least two seizure-related accidents in the year prior to the accident that killed her, one of them within six months. Those medical records, included in the accident report, spurred the legislative action by Patricia's family.

"We don't want her death to be in vain, but even more than that, I just couldn't live with it if I knew it happened to another family and I didn't do all I could do."

Campbell contacted state Rep. Wayne George, whose district covers Marion, Dillon and Horry Counties. After hearing Skipper's story, Rep. George drafted a bill to require law enforcement to report when a driver's medical condition causes an accident.

"What we found looking at the state of South Carolina, is that this is a policy but not all law enforcement officers do it," Rep. George says. "Highway Patrol has done a good job of doing it, but some of our other state officers and state/local law enforcement agencies have not been doing a good job. So we're trying to strengthen the law."

George says the proposed law includes a few different steps. First, if law enforcement suspects an accident was caused by a driver's medical condition, they will pass that information onto the DMV. The DMV will then follow up with the driver and depending on what they learn, will decide whether to take away their license.

"Even with this change in law, if they get it through, there's still a lot of leeway in there that you wouldn't think of," Campbell stresses. "So it's not perfect, but if this would've been followed through with my sister, with the guy having two previous accidents seizure-related, she would probably be alive today."

Rep. George says both law enforcement and the DMV gave their full support to the bill and it passed the House, in February, unanimously 102-0.

"We just hope for the Campbell family that we can make this, make it happen in South Carolina and we do really believe that it will save lives," Rep. George says. "It won't save [Patricia's] life, but hopefully it will save some South Carolinian's in the future."

Right now, SC House Bill 3213 sits in the Senate Transportation committee.

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