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New law sought after trooper’s traffic death

January 11, 2014 | Virginia News

News Image Four months after Virginia State Police trooper Andrew Fox was killed while directing traffic, the woman who struck him with her Jeep Cherokee was convicted of a misdemeanor. She received a suspended jail sentence.

“Her reckless disregard stole the life of my brother, a man who was loved and respected by all who knew him,” Lauren Fox wrote in an email this week to The Roanoke Times. “The idea that life can be stolen for only a misdemeanor while theft of $300 is considered a felony made his death seem even more of a waste.”

Fox said that’s why her family is working to introduce “Andrew’s Law” during the General Assembly. The proposed legislation would make reckless driving a felony if an emergency worker is injured or killed.

A draft of the bill provided by Fox states that it would punish “reckless driving that causes the death or serious physical injury of a law-enforcement officer, emergency medical services personnel, highway worker, or firefighter engaged in his duties.”

Under “Andrew’s Law,” striking an emergency worker would be a Class 6 felony with a $2,500 mandatory minimum fine. The bill would also require the court to suspend the offender’s driver’s license for one year.

Authorities have said that Angelica C. Valencia, who was 27 at the time, was driving a 1992 Jeep Cherokee on Oct. 5, 2012, when she struck and killed Andrew Fox, who was directing Virginia State Fair traffic on Virginia 30 at Theme Park Way in Hanover County.

Troopers and several bystanders lifted the Jeep off of Fox, and two troopers administered CPR. Fox, 27, who was stationed in Pulaski County, was taken to VCU Medical Center in Richmond, where he died.

In February 2013, Valencia, of Doswell, pleaded no contest to misdemeanor reckless driving in Hanover General District Court. A judge sentenced her to 12 months in jail but suspended the entire term and fined her $1,000, according to court records.

“The driver of the Jeep had already traveled through the state police controlled intersection once before returning through the intersection and failing to slow down,” Lauren Fox wrote. “She was traveling 37 mph in a 35 mph zone.”

Andrew Fox was wearing a reflective safety vest at the time and was standing with other troopers directing traffic through the intersection, authorities have said. There were blinking yellow traffic lights, and troopers were using illuminated baton flashlights.

A Tazewell High School and Virginia Tech alumnus, Fox graduated from the Virginia State Police Academy in 2007 and spent his first five years with the agency in Fairfax County, his Pulaski supervisor, Sgt. Dirk Compton, has said. Fox had moved back to Southwest Virginia in May 2012 with his wife, Ginny. The two lived on a farm in Draper.

Lauren Fox said “Andrew’s Law” is being introduced in the Senate by Sen. Phillip Puckett, D-Russell County, and in the House of Delegates by Del. Will Morefield, R-Tazewell County.

“With the passing of this bill and public education, we hope to show Virginia’s heroes we care about their safety as they put their lives in danger to make our lives safer,” Lauren Fox said. “We also hope to send a message to drivers to slow down when they see emergency lights and pay closer attention while driving on Virginia’s roads.”

Source: The Roanoke Times –