A rear-end collision blamed on man driving under the influence of drugs sent the governor of West Virginia and his wife to the hospital to get checked for injuries. The first couple were fine, but the crash in Beckley, WV, on the morning of May 26, 2018, illustrates the growing danger that drugged driving poses to everyone on the roads of the Mountain State.
Gov. Jim Justice and his wife, Cathy, were stopped at a red light at the intersection of Harper Road and Hylton Lane when the impaired driver slammed into the back of their SUV. The at-fault driver has been identified in multiple news reports as 20-year-old Joshua Lucas.
Local Berkley police handled the crash investigation even though the Justices were accompanied by a security escort provided by the State Police. Describing the crash, the governor stated in a press release, “I hate like crazy that this happened, but in some ways I’m glad he hit me because if the driver had not hit our Suburban, at the rate of speed he was going on the wet, slick roads, he probably would have traveled through the intersection and broadsided another vehicle. Fortunately for all, this could have been a tragedy, but this is a far better outcome.”
Field sobriety tests resulted in Lucas’ arrest for driving under the influence of marijuana. He has also been charged with failure to maintain control. This second charge is similar to reckless driving, which West Virginia law defines as operating a vehicle in “willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property.” Getting stoned before driving can make it impossible for a person to act safely and responsibly behind the wheel.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, “Marijuana significantly impairs judgment, motor coordination, and reaction time, and studies have found a direct relationship between blood THC concentration and impaired driving ability.” Applying this summary of the effects of marijuana use on driving to the rear-end collision in Beckley provides a picture of a drugged driver who may not have recognized that traffic had stopped and was probably incapable of responding appropriately even if he had. The likelihood of a serious wreck would increase as the amount of marijuana used increased.
My West Virginia personal injury law firm colleagues and I have written about the dangers of drugged driving in West Virginia before. Even as rates of drunk driving fall, the number of people who drive while under the influence of marijuana, opioids and methamphetamines is going up. We are glad the Justices escaped injury when they, too, fell victim to a drugged driver, but the incident in Beckley proves that no one is safe.