A tip from an attentive motorist and quick action by the Virginia State Police resulted in the arrest of a drunk driver who had just fled the scene of a deadly three-vehicle collision on I-66. The wreck happened shortly after 4 am on November 12, 2017, on the Fairfax County-Prince William County line, and the hit-and-run driver was taken into custody in Manassas.
The fleeing driver first struck an SUV about one mile east of Sudley Road. That impact caused the SUV to flip onto its side, which injured the person inside. The impaired driver then struck a car, killing its driver and seriously injuring its passenger. A few minutes later, a person who was not involved in the wreck alerted authorities to a man who was operating a badly damaged vehicle with a deployed airbag.
Troopers filed preliminary charges of driving while intoxicated and felony hit-and-run against the at-fault driver. The later charge stems from section 46.2-894 of the Virginia Code, which gives legal duties to drivers to remain on the scene of a crash, share information with law enforcement officers and victims who may have insurance claims, and “render reasonable assistance to any person injured in such accident.”
No one can know whether the woman who lost her life on I-66 would have survived if the at-fault driver had stopped and provided first aid. But the fact that he did not attempt to assist her makes it obvious that an important opportunity to prevent her death was missed.
The hit-and-run driver actually put his victim’s life at risk the second he took the wheel while under the influence of alcohol. During 2015, the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles received reports of 7,591 crashes in which one or both drivers were under the influence. Statewide, those collisions caused 241 deaths (32.1 percent of the total crash deaths for the year) and 4,917 injuries. Nine of the drunk driving fatalities occurred in Fairfax County.
My Virginia personal injury and wrongful death law firm colleagues and I thank both the alert motorist and the state troopers for identifying and detaining the hit-and-driver. No person who injures others and takes lives while DWI should escape accountability. With the driver who caused the deadly crash on the Fairfax-Prince William border in custody, surviving victims and the family of the deceased woman will find it easier to file insurance claims.