In the long run, it would be so much easier to just call a cab. Cheaper, too. But an elite group of Mecklenburg County drivers continues to drive drunk at all costs.
Creative Loafing analyzed drunk driving charges levied in Mecklenburg County over the last decade to find the county's 10 worst drunk drivers.
That they haven't killed anyone, including themselves, is a miracle. That many of them continue to drink and drive after multiple stints in jail on drunk driving charges defies all rationality. The only explanation is that these people clearly need help.
One thing is for sure: Their records prove that if a person is determined to continue driving drunk, the police can't stop them and the courts can only slow them down.
These drivers have boldly gone where few drivers dare to travel, and the price they have paid to avoid the indignity of a taxi is steep. According to the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT), first-time DWI-offenders pay at least $9,640 in legal fees, court costs and fines, and the price doesn't go down much with subsequent DWI arrests.
Most of our top 10 had their driver's licenses taken from them years ago, yet they continue to drive. They are regularly charged with driving without insurance, inspection stickers and vehicle registration documents.
In North Carolina, the state can permanently seize your car if you get a DWI while driving with your license revoked if you lost your license due to a previous drunk driving-related conviction. Most of the drivers on our list have had lost at least one car that way. Not that it stopped them. Most continued driving drunk even after losing their vehicles.
Holding down a job between 10-day stints in jail for driving without a license and 30-day drunk driving sentences can't be easy.
So how does one qualify for the CL Top 10 Drunk Drivers list?
First, local drunk drivers had to have racked up at least one felony habitual drunk driving charge. Before someone can be charged with habitual drunk driving, he or she has to have had at least three driving while impaired (DWI) convictions within the preceding seven years and be driving drunk for the fourth time during that period. A felony habitual drunk driving conviction carries a mandatory minimum sentence of one year in prison. The competition for the Top 10 slots was stiff. About 4,300 drunk driving charges are filed in Mecklenburg County each year.
Since about a third of all fatal automobile crashes in North Carolina involved alcohol in 2004, the 10 drunk drivers we're "honoring" here had to dodge both prison and death long enough to make our list, which, given their records, is quite an accomplishment.
Between them, these 10 drivers have over 75 drunken driving charges on record. That's the bad news. The worse news is that those numbers are likely low. When state prison records are compared against records kept at the county courthouse and those kept by the state administrative office of the courts, glaring holes in our record-keeping system are obvious. State prison records show drunk drivers serving prison sentences for convictions in Mecklenburg County that don't show up on our county court records.
The majority of our "winners" show no signs of giving up their habits, no matter the cost to themselves -- or to other drivers.
But someone does eventually pick up the tab. According to the NCDOT, drunk drivers cost North Carolina taxpayers nearly $1 billion in health care, insurance and other related costs each year.
JOHN BRUCE TRULL
Alias: Timothy Fenney
Career High: Ten drunk driving charges; nine drunk driving convictions over his career
Career Low: Busted for a prison escape in 1988
Fastest Speed Clocked: 69 mph in a 60 mph zone
Times Charged with Driving Without a License: 7
For 15 years, nothing has broken John Bruce Trull's drunk driving streak. He has served a total of four years in state prison on more than half a dozen drunk driving charges, but as soon as he got out, he was drunk and behind the wheel again. Not even his lack of a driver's license could stop him. That's the kind of persistence it takes to earn the title of Charlotte's top drunk driver.
Trull was recently sidelined for a while due to a habitual drunk driving conviction for which he served a year and five months, but he was released from prison in August and is no doubt back on the road.
Trull is a fighter who doesn't go down easy. He likes to take a cop or two with him, which is why he has been convicted of resisting arrest. He has a prison escape to his credit, and is the only drunk driver out of the 10 on our list to be convicted of possessing a weapon of mass destruction. We'd like to know more about that one; unfortunately, those court records have been destroyed.