The recent death of a young Dawsonville woman soon may lead to stricter aggressive driving laws across the state.
Chelsea Gerrish, 20, was killed early Friday, Oct. 11, in Gainesville when she was struck head-on by a driver involved in road-rage incident with another vehicle.
Under current Georgia law, aggressive driving is a misdemeanor carrying a fine of less than $1,000, six points on the drivers license, and less than a year in prison.
Gerrishs mother, Donna Gerrish, is working to make aggressive driving a felony, and she has the support of House Rep. Kevin Tanner.
What were looking at is creating a second tier to the current aggressive driving law, said Tanner. If someone causes an accident as a result of aggressive driving behavior, even if there are no fatalities or injuries, but that driver causes an accident, they can be charged with a felony.
A felony conviction carries a fine of more than $1,000 and more than one year in prison.
The new law would be called Chelseas Law.
If passed, the amended law would require anger management classes similar to classes required for a driving-under-the-influence conviction. Two aggressive driving convictions within five years could result in an automatic, one-year license suspension.
Were in the preliminary stages now, Tanner said. The bill has been drafted, and I plan to pre-file it in December. Im working with other legislators and trying to get it perfect prior to session.
Tanner said if the bill moves smoothly through the House and Senate, and with Gov. Nathan Deals approval, it could become law in 2014.
Before being elected to the House, Tanner served 18 years in law enforcement in Dawson County.
Im personally very hopeful about this, he said. Donna, her husband, and their family can use this tragedy to help educate others about the seriousness of road rage and aggressive driving.
Tanner was referring to Chelseas parents, Donna and Tony Gerrish.
The most important thing is to educate people on the dangers of road rage, said Donna Gerrish. The consequences of driving when youre angry, and being mad just because youre a few minutes late getting home or getting to work, can cause someone to lose their life. We lost our daughter, and Aiden lost his mom.
Chelseas son, Aiden, celebrated his second birthday only days before the accident.
The family has contacted Dawson County High School about a possible speaking event. They already are scheduled to speak at North Forsyth High School, where Chelsea graduated in 2011.
People need to understand they can take someones life in a second. They need to understand that driving a car is the most powerful weapon on the road, Donna Gerrish said.
A recording from a 911 call indicates how the fatal wreck occurred. A caller told 911:
We have a red truck following us. ... He keeps turning his lights on and off. He just hit us! He just hit us!
According to officials of the Gainesville Police Department, the driver of the red pickup truck, Michael Carl Williams, 48, then attempted to pass the vehicle he had bumped.
The 911 caller continued:
He just hit somebody head-on. No! No! No!
Williams also was killed on impact, said Cpl. Joe Britte with the Gainesville Police Department.
This is unfortunately an active road-rage event on the part of Mr. Williams, said Britte.
It is unclear whether alcohol or drugs were factors in the wreck, investigators said. The investigation is ongoing; toxicology reports had not been completed at presstime.