A head-on collision in a rural section of Chesterfield County, Virginia (VA), left an innocent woman dead and the at-fault driver facing multiple charges. The deadly crash happened southeast of Richmond in the 20400 block of River Road on Jan. 30, 2021.
According to county police, a 23-year-old Midlothian resident caused the fatal wreck when she crossed a double yellow line and drove her SUV into the path of an oncoming car. Both drivers initially survived the crash, but the woman in the car was pronounced dead at the hospital.
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Authorities have charged the SUV driver with driving while intoxicated (DWI) and involuntary manslaughter. Other charges may be forthcoming. Among other details, police told reporters that the at-fault driver was distracted at the time of the crash because she was using her cell phone.
Alcohol and Distraction Form a Fatal Mix
Virginia law prohibits the use of any handheld electronic device while operating a moving vehicle. This law is often characterized as a ban on texting while driving, which it is. However, the statute also makes it clear that, with very few exceptions mostly applying to first responders, drivers must use hands-free devices or refrain from using phones, tablets and GPS devices altogether.
The ban exists for the very simple reason that taking one’s eyes off the road ahead, taking one’s hands off the steering wheel and mentally focusing on something other than controlling one’s vehicle greatly raises the chances for crashing. In this case, the driver who was already allegedly impaired by consuming alcohol failed to notice that she had left her own lane of travel.
The location of the fatal head-on also bears mentioning in this regard. The 20400 block of River Road is a two-lane rural state highway that lacks shoulders and streetlights. The double yellow line dividing the pavement is the only safety device preventing head-on collisions. Staying on one own side of this road can be a challenge for any number of reasons. Getting behind the wheel after drinking and then picking up a cell phone almost guarantees a bad-to-tragic result.
Sadly, the worst did happen. One woman lost her life and another faces a lifetime of regret. My Virginia wrongful death law firm colleagues and I send our deepest condolences to the grieving family of the deceased woman.
Regardless of how the criminal case is resolved, the at-fault driver very likely has liability and an obligation to pay compensation through her car insurance policy. Succeeding with claims will not depend on securing convictions, but all the evidence collected by police can be used during negotiations with the insurance company or while going through a civil trial.