A 25-year-old woman from Cornish accused of driving 124 mph with her two young children in the car without child car seats has a history of driving offenses, and now can expect a visit from the state’s child protective services.
Cheryl Gilson, who lists her address as Roland Day Road, was stopped on the Maine Turnpike in Portland on Sunday and charged with criminal speeding, driving to endanger and two counts of endangering the welfare of her children, 3 and 5. She was arrested and taken to the Cumberland County Jail in handcuffs.
“It’s seriously negligent,” said state Trooper Roger Teachout. “Those children were in serious jeopardy of being killed or seriously injured.”
Teachout said he first saw Gilson speeding north on the Maine Turnpike in Saco around 2 p.m. Traffic was moderate until mile 44, approaching the exit for Interstate 295, where it got heavier.
“That’s where she started weaving in and out and following too close,” Teachout said Monday.
After following her 2009 Hyundai Sonata for several miles, Teachout stopped Gilson at the Exit 47 off-ramp in Portland. In the car with her were three men – all of whom had suspended driver’s licenses – and her children.
Teachout said Gilson did not seem to understand why she was being arrested.
Gilson would not say where she was going in such a hurry, said Teachout. The three men told a trooper that they were going to the woman’s house in Biddeford, although they were headed north – away from Biddeford.
Teachout said there were no signs that Gilson was impaired, and her car did not hit any other vehicles despite her speed and erratic driving.
Gilson could not be contacted Monday. A woman who answered the telephone at her listed address in Cornish said she is Gilson’s mother but she did not know how to get in touch with her daughter.
Gilson, who previously went by the name Cheryl Stone, got her first speeding ticket – for driving 61 mph in a 35 mph zone – when she was 16 and had had her license for less than three months. That was the first of four times her license was suspended.
About eight months later, while still on a provisional license, she got her second ticket, and second license suspension, for driving 64 mph in a 50 mph zone.
There were more driving problems, according to the state Bureau of Motor Vehicles:
• Driving with a suspended license in 2005.
• Illegally transporting alcohol in 2006, which led to her third suspension.
• Driving under the influence in 2006.
That was followed by driving with a suspended license later that year and a license revocation in 2007, for being a habitual offender.
Her right to drive was restored in 2010, and she had no violations through 2011.
In 2012, she was ticketed for driving 87 mph in a 65 mph zone, and for driving a car that had not been inspected in the previous year.
Gilson also had two crashes in which she was identified as the driver at fault.
On Feb. 28, 2012, she was driving on Plains Road in Raymond when she failed to stop at a “T” intersection and went off the far side of the road and into a tree. She and two passengers were wearing seat belts and were not injured, according to the accident report. A third passenger, who was in the back seat and not wearing a seat belt, suffered cuts to the face.
In December in Falmouth, Gilson was driving her blue 2009 Hyundai and following too closely when she rear-ended a 1993 Volvo driven by a 16-year-old, according to that accident report. Nobody was hurt.
Gilson has no criminal record except for drunken driving in 2006, according to the State Bureau of Identification.
Teachout said he wanted to make sure he had Gilson’s speed right on Sunday so he reviewed his cruiser camera’s recording.
Although she was charged with driving 124 mph, he said, she hit 127 mph at one point and was going 117 mph where the three-lane section of the turnpike narrows to two lanes, after Exit 44, and the speed limit drops to 55 mph.
A person is guilty of criminal speeding if they are convicted of driving 30 mph or more over the posted speed limit.
Teachout said he did not issue Gilson a separate ticket for not having the children in car seats because that was encompassed in the charge of endangering the welfare of a child.
A person is guilty of endangering a child if he or she “recklessly endangers the health, safety or welfare of a child under 16 years of age by violating a duty of care or protection.”
Gilson was allowed to call a friend to come and get the children, Teachout said.
The incident was referred to the Department of Health and Human Services’ child protection division for further investigation, he said.
The incident appears to highlight many troopers’ concern that today’s cars are capable of such high speeds. The Sonata is a mid-size family sedan, not a sports car. In 2007, a traffic camera in Arizona clocked a 2007 Hyundai Sonata going 147 mph.
“These vehicles are extremely powerful,” Teachout said. “A Honda Accord-type vehicle is faster than the Camaros that were on the road when we were kids.”
Gilson was released from jail Sunday night on $250 cash bail and has a court date June 18.