A wrong-way driver claimed the life of a 13-year-old girl in Madison County, North Carolina (NC), on the night of April 19, 2017. The fatal collision also left the deceased middle school student’s younger sister hospitalized with a blinded left eye, a damaged right eye and multiple broken bones. The innocent driver of the car in which the injured and killed girls were passengers also required treatment for crash-related injuries.
According to state troopers, the at-fault driver was traveling south in the northbound lanes of U.S. 25-70 between the towns of Marshall and Weaverville. Both cars were going close to the posted speed limit, and the driver in her proper lane appears to have swerved in an attempt to avoid a head-on collision.
Emergency responders found the wrong-way driver uninjured but displaying signs of intoxication. That woman currently faces charges for driving while impaired (DWI), reckless driving and felony death by vehicle. Regarding that final alleged criminal offense, section 20-141.4 of the North Carolina Code specifies that a driver can be consider to have committed the most-severe kind of crime when he or she
- Causes a wreck that leads to another person’s death without meaning to kill or injure;
- Causes a wreck while driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol; and
- The victim dies directly from injuries suffered in the crash.
All of those factors appear to apply to the fatal wrong-way wreck in Madison County, NC. They also apply in general to a majority of wrong-way wrecks.
In a 2012 special report on the causes and consequences of wrong-way crashes, the National Transportation Safety Board noted
Seven of the nine wrong-way drivers in the NTSB investigations covered in this report had BACs [blood alcohol concentrations] of 0.15 or higher. NTSB analysis of FARS data for 2004–2009 found that of the 1,566 wrong-way drivers in fatal crashes, 60 percent (936 drivers) were classified as drinking. Of the 1,150 wrong-way drivers involved in fatal collisions with known BAC results, about 59 percent (684 drivers) had high BAC levels—at or above 0.15. By contrast, of all drivers involved in fatal crashes on U.S. public roads during the same time period, about 22 percent had BACs reported at or above 0.15.
My Carolina wrongful death attorney colleagues send our most heartfelt condolences out to the friends and family members of the young teen who lost her life to the DWI wrong-way driver. Holding the reckless impaired driver accountable in civil court for paying death and injury claims, as well in criminal court, is essential.