A West Virginia pizza delivery driver working her shift on the day after Thanksgiving 2017 suffered serious injuries when her car was struck head-on by a drugged driver. The November 24 crash happened near the intersection of Kanawha Terrace and 8th Street in the town of St. Albans.
According to police, a 33-year-old man from Tazewell, Virginia (VA), crossed the double yellow line on Kanawha Terrace at around 6:30 pm. The resulting collision trapped the pizza delivery driver in her car, and emergency responders had to cut her free.
After being taken into custody, the man from Virginia admitted to using drugs and was charged with driving under the influence causing bodily injury. The relevant statutory language from section 17C-5-2 of the West Virginia Code states that a person is considered to be in an “impaired state” when he or she “is under the influence of any controlled substance,” and a bodily injury is considered any “injury that causes substantial physical pain, illness or any impairment of physical condition.”
If convicted, the driver who caused the head-on collision in St. Albans, northwest of Charleston, could spend up to a year in jail. West Virginia authorities take drugged driving very seriously because of the danger it poses to all people on the state’s roads. It is also a growing problem.
As reported in a recent article on the WV Metro News website, the Governors Highway Safety Association reported in 2015 that “drugs were present in the systems of 43 percent of people killed in U.S. highway accidents, a rate higher than alcohol at 37 percent. It’s the first time drugged driving has surpassed drunk driving in the report.”
The National Institute on Drug Abuse is also raising the alarm on drugged driving, noting on one of its Drug Facts webpages, “Marijuana can slow reaction time, impair judgment of time and distance, and decrease coordination. Drivers who have used cocaine or methamphetamine can be aggressive and reckless when driving. Certain kinds of sedatives, called benzodiazepines, can cause dizziness and drowsiness. All of these impairments can lead to vehicle crashes.”
And that summary does not even mention the impairing effects of prescription painkillers like OxyContin, Vicodin or fentanyl, or the street drug equivalent of those opioids, heroin. As Virginia-based personal injury lawyers who have helped many victims of traffic crashes and other accidents in West Virginia, my law firm colleagues and I have spent decades holding drugged drivers accountable for the harm they inflict on others. We know that the only safe level of drug use before driving is none. This terrible wreck in St. Albans proves that sad truth once again.