A one-car accident took the life of Roland Benjamin Sierra, age 12, on Saturday, February 19, 2011, in Asheboro, North Carolina. The driver of the car, 35-year-old Reyna Patricia Valencia, was charged with multiple offenses the following Monday, including DWI and involuntary manslaughter. Four of the charges were felonies.

Fourteen-year-old Jose Sierra, Roland’s brother, was treated at Randolph Hospital and released. Valencia was airlifted to Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center. Roland died at the scene of the wreck.

The crash happened on southbound U.S. 220 bypass near Sunset Avenue at about 12:30 p.m. Police said Valencia was speeding and driving erratically when her 2003 Dodge Stratus ran off the right side of the road, overturned and flipped up an embankment.

Valencia is described as a family friend visiting from Phoenix, Arizona. Sergio Sierra, the children’s father, said in an interview that he and his wife had no idea that the boys had gotten in a car with Valencia.

“We never would have let that happen – never – especially because we knew she was drinking,” Sergio said.

Asheboro police reconstructed the wreck the next Monday. Valencia was charged shortly afterwards.

These are the charges against Valencia:

  • Involuntary manslaughter
  • Felony death by motor vehicle
  • 2 counts of felonious restraint
  • Driving while impaired
  • Failure to secure a passenger under 16
  • Open container
  • Reckless driving to endanger

Captain Jim Smith with the Asheboro Police Department said that Valencia is charged with felonious restraint because she didn't have parental permission to have the boys with her.

Roland was sixth-grader at Southwest Randolph Middle School. One of his teachers described him as a good learner, athletic, and well-liked.

Despite tougher laws, constant media messages warning against the dangers of drunken driving, and the best efforts of law enforcement, deaths from alcohol-related accidents keeps mounting.

Every day, almost 30 people in the United States are killed crashes that involve an alcohol-impaired driver, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This amounts to one death every 48 minutes. In 2009, 10,839 people were killed in alcohol-impaired driving crashes, accounting for nearly a third of all traffic-related deaths in the United States.

In our state, the North Carolina Alcohol Facts website reports there were 363 alcohol-related fatal crashes in 2009. Of all fatal crashes, 29.4 percent involved alcohol. And the trend is not consistently downward. The worst year listed for this decade was as recent as 2007, with 447 crashes. The lowest number of fatal wrecks was back in 2001, with 334.

Heart-wrenching stories like the one that happened in Asheboro are retold thousands of times. We can only hope that increased awareness and tougher laws will reduce the occurrence of these senseless deaths and injuries.

After an accident it is wise to consult an attorney. If you have questions about legal issues in this article or in your own personal injury suffered in a wreck, call me directly for help – Lawrence Egerton, 336-273-0508, or 800-800-4LAW, or e-mail me at [email protected]

You will always talk to an attorney the first time you call.

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