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Underage Drunk, Texting Driver Charged in Fatal Head-On

A fatal head-on collision in Gastonia, North Carolina (NC), shines a spotlight on nearly every danger a negligent or reckless driver can pose. In the hours after the deadly wreck at around 10 pm on April 14, 2018, authorities charged the at-fault driver with driving while impaired, felony hit and run, felony death by motor vehicle, careless and reckless driving, provisional driving while impaired, consumption of an alcoholic beverage by a 20 year old, possession of alcohol by a 20 year old, texting while driving, no operator’s license and failure to register vehicle.



Investigators say the underage drunk driver crossed the center line of Robinwood Road while going around a curve and struck an oncoming vehicle at the intersection with Seth Court. The innocent 58-year-old man in the other vehicle died at scene.

The young driver tried to flee, but he was quickly apprehended. He was found intoxicated and in possession of alcohol. Lab tests will show his blood alcohol concentration and whether he was under the influence of any drugs.

Separate from the DWI, the fact that the 20 year old was texting and driving made him a deadly risk to everyone else on Robinwood Road through Gastonia. Research done for the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety revealed that


  • Texting or interacting with a smartphone while driving increases the likelihood for causing a crash two- to eightfold.
  • Two seconds of taking one’s eyes off the road is long enough to set the stage for a crash.
  • Driver distraction contributes to 59 percent of all crashes caused by teen drivers.


Combining texting and driving with driving drunk can practically guarantee a tragic outcome. Further documenting this, the North Carolina Division of Motor Vehicles in 2016 recorded 10,053 crashes by teen drivers who went out of their lanes and 1.099 crashes by teen drivers who were driving while impaired. Some number of those wrecks resulted from both causes.

My Carolina wrongful death attorney colleagues and I send our deepest condolences out to the friends and family members of the man who lost his life so needlessly in Gastonia. While the at-fault driver is unlikely to have insurance to settle wrongful death claims since he lacks a license and was operating an unregistered vehicle, the deceased victim’s loved ones should have coverage under the uninsured motorist provisions of his or one of their own car insurance policies.

North Carolina requires that all drivers licensed in the state carry uninsured motorist coverage. This makes their own insurance company the insurer for hit-an-run drivers or drivers who operate illegally without any coverage. The settlement of uninsured motorist claims is not automatic, however, so partnering with an experienced and caring wrongful death attorney could help the family.


Eric K. Washburn
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Personal Injury & Wrongful Death Lawyer Serving Va Beach, Norfolk, Chesapeake & all of Virginia
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