A Hagerstown, Maryland (MD), woman lost her life last Thursday when a man in a pickup truck apparently crossed over the center line of rural U.S. 11 in Martinsburg, West Virginia (WV), and hit her small car head on. The local paper, the Herald-Mail, reported that the pickup’s driver failed three field sobriety tests after the accident and was charged with driving under the influence causing death.

The pickup truck driver, identified as 37-year-old Jeffrey Wayne McKinney, had a blood alcohol content of 0.165 when police administered a breath test. A man weighing 160 lbs. needs to drink eight 12 oz. beers within two hours to achieve a BAC of twice the legal limit of 0.08.

Very drunk drivers caused or were involved in 3 of every 10 fatal car, truck and motorcycle accidents in West Virginia during 2006, the last year for which complete data are available. Across the United States, drivers of light trucks — pickups and SUVs — caused or died in 42 percent of fatal DUI traffic accidents in 2006.

Any drunk driving death is one too many, and the one in West Virginia on March 18 illustrates how a large number of wrong-way and head-on accidents occur because someone is driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Those types of accidents should not and do not need ever happen when people make the responsible decision to stay out of the driver’s seat after getting drunk and high. When drunk or drugged drivers do injure and kill, however, my colleagues and I stand ready to work for the victims and make sure they receive justice.