A motorcycle rider died in Rockingham County, Virginia (VA), on July 4, 2017, when a driver crossed the center line of a rural state highway and struck the motorcyclist. The fatal crash happened on Route 601 outside of the town of Shenandoah, where the highway is also known as Rinaca’s Corner Road.
Virginia State Police identified the deceased motorcycle rider as 30-year-old Christopher Lee Shifflett. The driver who caused the deadly wreck was immediately taken into custody on preliminary charges of driving with a suspended license and driving under the influence of drugs. Other charges, including a felony charge for involuntary manslaughter, may follow when troopers complete their investigation in to the Fourth of July crash north of Elkton, VA.
State laws in Virginia treat drugged driving as seriously as drunk driving. The relevant statute, section 18.2-266 of the Virginia Code, specifies legal limits for blood concentrations of cocaine, methamphetamine and phencyclidine (PCP). Individuals under suspicion of driving under the influence of drugs also usually get tested for heroin, prescription painkillers called opioids that produce many of the effects of heroin, antianxiety medications and prescription sleep drugs.
Illegal drugs and several types of prescription medications cloud judgment, slow reflexes, reduce muscle coordination, increase drowsiness, and reduce perceptions of risk. Any of those makes driving dangerous and increases the chance for a driver to cross the center line of a highway or go the wrong way into oncoming traffic.
Dangers from drugged drivers also appear to be increasing. A study done by the Governors Highway Safety Association and summarized in a May 1, 2017, Washington Post article revealed that “43 percent of drivers tested in fatal crashes in 2015 had used a legal or illegal drug, higher than the 37 percent who tested above the legal limit for alcohol.”
Groups like Mothers Against Drunk Driving stress that a spike in driving under the influence of drugs does not mean alcohol-related crashes have become less of a threat. Still, a tragedy like the one on Route 601 in Rockingham County reveals that drugs present a real and growing danger to the health and lives of innocent people on roads everywhere.
When a drunk or drugged driver inflicts injuries or takes a life, the victims or the victims’ survivors have rights to demand justice under criminal law and compensation under civil law. All the evidence collected by criminal investigators can be used to support insurance claims, personal injury lawsuits and wrongful death cases. Consulting with a Virginia wrongful death attorney who has decades of experience holding drunk and drugged drivers financially accountable for the harm they cause will help the family of the man killed outside of Shenandoah pursue their claims.