This family wants 'Carolina Squat' banned after crash kills young father

BJ Upton (3).jpg
Posted at 12:22 PM, Feb 26, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-26 12:34:13-05

MECKLENBURG COUNTY, Va. -- A Mecklenburg County family is urging Virginia lawmakers to put harsher punishments on trucks with a "Carolina Squat" after they believe the popular truck modification could have contributed to a crash that killed their loved one.

27-year-old Jody "BJ" Upton was traveling to work along Skipwith Road in Mecklenburg the morning of Feb. 16, when the driver of a modified truck crossed the center line and hit Upton head on.

The"Carolina Squat" modification is when the front axle of a vehicle is significantly higher than the back axle — which some argue makes it harder to see.

"You could see that the other driver's tires, like skid marks," explained Ann Taylor Kallam, Upton's soon-to-be sister-in-law. "He was driving on the complete opposite side of the road, and BJ didn't stand a chance. It stopped BJ's truck in its tracks."

Kallam said she and her fiancé, BJ's brother Johnathan Upton, arrived on the scene of the crash just behind Virginia State Police.

"It was just a horrific wreck," said Kallam, who sent CBS 6 photos of Upton's 2005 Chevrolet Silverado smashed into pieces.

While Kallam said her family can’t say for certain the truck modification was the sole cause of the crash, she believes it contributed to it.

"It could have been preventable," she explained. "The squat on that truck was, I don't even know the proper terminology for it, but I don't know how he could have seen anything going over that hill."

The driver of the 2016 Chevrolet Silverado, 19-year-old Anthony Newcomb of Chase City, sustained minor injuries in the crash and was transported to the hospital for treatment by family. Newcomb was charged with reckless driving.

Police are still investigating whether or not the "Carolina Squat" modification contributed to the crash.

Upton leaves behind a seven-year-old son, Brayden.

"Brayden was his world," said Allman. "Brayden was his number one. Brayden was his everything."

Upton's family and his girlfriend, Nikki Allman, are hoping lawmakers will ban the "Carolina Squat" in Virginia. Allman started a petition that already has more than 5,000 signatures.

North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper recently signed legislation making it illegal for a vehicle to have a front fender four or more inches higher than the rear.

The "Carolina Squat" is already illegal in Virginia, but it's 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.

Upton's family is working with Virginia lawmakers, including Republican Senator Frank Ruff, to make the "Carolina Squat" a primary offense this session.

“This is an issue that really affects people's lives," Ruff told CBS 6. "It's not a philosophical issue. It's an issue of reality that people can and are dying for no reason.”

Ruff said the Senate Judiciary Committee will take up House Bill 79Monday morning. That bill would make “Carolina Squats” and other traffic violations, like broken tail lights and tinted windows, primary offenses, meaning police could stop the drivers of those vehicles.

Ruff believes the bill would make Virginia roads safer, but some critics believe pretextual policing could lead to racial profiling.

Kallam and other family members of Upton are expected to testify during Monday morning's hearing.

"There's nothing we can do right now to bring BJ back," said Kallam. "As horrible as that is, there's absolutely nothing we can do. But what we can do is put time, energy motivation into making sure that another family doesn't have to go through the turmoil, the drama, that everything that this is surrounding right now."