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Criminal Trial for Driver in Norfolk, VA Crash That Killed Two Passengers: Was It Distracted Driving?

When a Virginia car accident occurs, a criminal case against the at-fault driver often goes forward separately from ny civil lawsuit involving insurance claims or personal injury calims against the driver who caused the wreck. Prosecution by the police does not really determine the outcome of any injury case, but key facts may be revealed in the criminal investigation and trial. A recent DUI trial in Norfolk, Virginia (VA), showed how this may play out.

The fatal traffic accident occurred on Granby Street in Norfolk during the early morning of July 25, 2009. The defense attorney for the motorist charged with driving under the influence of alcohol argued that distractions from backseat passengers ended with a punch to the driver's head and caused the defendant to lose control of his car, crash and kill two passengers dead while causing serious injuries to another person in the vehicle, according to the Virginian-Pilot.

Prosecution witnesses denied distracting the driver, an enlisted Navy sailor, and testified the driver was speeding and driving aggressively while also being engaged in a heated conversation in the car. Witnesses also contended the driver smelled of alcohol at the car wreck scene. The prosecutor also presented accident scene photos of the driver's wrecked BMW on the median in the 6100 block of Granby Street, across from Bon Secours DePaul Medical Center.

The June 2011 trial was for two charges of aggravated involuntary manslaughter and maiming in the 2009 wreck that took the life of 25-year-old man from Chesapeake, VA, and a 22-year-old woman. The third passenger was maimed and remains in a rehabilitation hospital, confined to a wheelchair, and sometimes not recognizing family members when they visit. Before the accident, the third passenger was a Navy helicopter pilot.

The driver met the three passengers for the first and only time at Red Dog Saloon, a bar and restaurant in Ghent. The three passengers, and another friend, had been drinking and unable to get a cab when the bar closed. The driver offered the four a ride. A blood sample taken from the driver after the crash showed a blood alcohol content over the legal limit for driving.

What happened to the passengers in this tragic car crash was a lesson not to drink and drive or do things in the car that take away focus from the road.  Virginia laws make it a crime to drive with a blood alcohol concentration at or above 0.08. Drinking alcohol slows reaction time and impairs judgment. The vast majority of car crashes involve some type of driver error. This means drivers can impact traffic safety by staying awake and taking advantage of rest stops. Drive defensively - in a moment, a car wreck can take away a life.

To learn more about what to do if you or a loved one is hurt in a car accident, check out our Frequently Asked Questions devoted to the subject.

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