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General Assembly passes bill to ban 'Carolina Squat' modification after Virginia father's death

'This bill is about saving lives,' family says
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Posted at 1:34 PM, Mar 11, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-12 12:25:03-05

RICHMOND, Va. -- The Virginia General Assembly has passed legislation that would a ban modified "Carolina Squat" trucks from Virginia's roads in the wake of a deadly crash in Mecklenburg County that left a 27-year-old man dead last month.

The House of Delegates voted Friday in favor of SB 777, which would ban any "passenger car or pickup or panel truck" from public roads if it has been modified to raise the front bumper four inches or higher than the rear bumper. The legislation, which unanimously passed the state Senate Tuesday, now goes to Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin for his signature.

The bill contains an emergency clause, so if it is signed into law by Youngkin it would take effect immediately rather than July 1.

A "Carolina Squat," which is a truck is one that has been modified to raise the front end of the vehicle higher than the rear, is already illegal in Virginia. But it is considered a secondary offense, meaning police can't pull over the driver of a vehicle with the modification unless they are doing something else illegal.

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27-year-old Jody "BJ" Upton was tragically killed in a Mecklenburg County crash

'This bill is about saving lives,' family says

Efforts to ban the truck were started by the family of BJ Upton, 27, who died in a Feb. 16, 2022 crash in Mecklenburg County. Upton died after his truck was hit by another truck traveling in the other direction crossed over the center line and crashed into his.

"The truck was smashed…Completely, almost like in a ball and it was like indented within the ditch," said Upton's future sister-in-law, Ann Taylor Kallam, who arrived at the scene shortly after it happened. "It was just a horrific sight."

The driver of the other truck, Anthony Newcomb of Chase City, 19, sustained minor injuries in the crash. Newcomb was charged with reckless driving.

Kallam said Newcomb's truck was a "Carolina Squat" and the family believes those modifications played a big role in the deadly outcome of the crash.

"We can't help but think, what if it was another vehicle? What if? What if that truck that hit him wasn't squatted? What if the truck wasn't squatted and the guy could actually see the road?" Kallam said.

Virginia State Police said they are investigating whether alleged modifications were a contributing factor in the crash.

Since the deadly crash, Upton's family has pushed for the modification to be banned from Virginia's roads. A similar ban went into effect in North Carolina last year and lawmakers in South Carolina are considering a ban during this year's legislative session.

The bill's sponsor, Sen. Mark Peake (R - Lynchburg), previously said lawmakers were spurred on by the Mecklenburg crash.

"I think everybody saw the tragedy, and nobody wants to see that continue. So I hope that we will rally around this legislation to get these vehicles off Virginia's highways," added Peake.

Kallam hopes people opposed to the bill take the issue seriously.

"It's not to take away your right to modify your truck," Kallam explained. "It's taking away the modification that is unsafe. This bill is about safety. This bill is about saving lives. And I know without a shadow of a doubt that this bill will save lives."

Kallam said the family is doing as best they can in the weeks since the crash and efforts to ban the modification have given them solace.

"This has given the family something to put effort and time into," Kallam said. "This can only help us have some sort of closure to know that something good came out of it. We know that we'll never have the closure that we would hope, because that just won't happen. But this does help with just knowing that something positive came out of it... and this won't happen to another family in Virginia."