An 18-year-old who later admitted to smoking marijuana shortly before getting behind the wheel of her Toyota Yaris struck and killed a bike rider in Charlotte, North Carolina (NC), on the afternoon of Christmas Ever 2017. The fatal crash happened at the intersection of NC Highway 51/Pineville-Matthews Road and Johnston Road.
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police received the call at about 2:30 pm. They found the 57-year-old bicyclist in a crosswalk, and emergency medical personnel declared him dead at the scene. Numerous news outlets have identified the deceased victim as Francis Male Jr.
Investigators determined that the teen driver sped up suddenly before the collision in an effort to beat a yellow light on Johnston Road. She now faces a misdemeanor charge for causing a death while operating a motor vehicle and a separate criminal charge for using a Schedule 1 illegal drug. The charges may be combined or elevated if blood test show that she was driving while impaired by marijuana.
Authorities may also seek additional charges if they can conclusively show that the bike rider who the driver fatally injured had the right of way. Being in the crosswalk could provide conclusive evidence in another scenario, but investigators would like to interview witnesses to learn definitively that the light facing the driver had turned red. They are asking people who were in the area at the time of the collision to call Crime Stoppers at (704) 334-1600.
Drugged driving is a growing risk in all places. When the Governors Highway Safety Association researched the extent of the problem, they found that 43 percent of drivers involved in deadly crashes during 2015 who also had usable drug test results had an illegal concentration of drugs in their systems.
Marijuana tops the list of drugs found when testing drivers who cause or suffer wrecks. Driving while high on marijuana puts everyone in danger because marijuana slows reaction time, leaves a user unable to accurate estimate time and distance, and makes a driver less likely to stay focused traffic signals and respond appropriately to changes in traffic flow.
As Carolina wrongful death attorneys, my colleagues and I have long recognized the terrible toll drug-related DWI takes on innocent victims. We also know to well that even sober drivers too often fail to share the road safely and respectfully with bike riders. During this holiday season, one of our greatest wishes is that all people make the resolution to prevent needless tragedies like this one in Charlotte.