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December is National Drunk and Drugged Driving Prevention Month

December 14, 2020

Drunk and Drugged Driving

Drunk and drugged driving is especially prevalent during the month of December, a time when many Virginians travel to celebrate the holidays with their loved ones. The winter holidays are also a time when alcohol-related injuries and fatalities increase. This December, motorists are encouraged to drive sober in observance of National Drunk and Drugged Driving Prevention Month.

What are the Risks of Drunk and Drugged Driving?

It is not safe to drive while impaired by alcohol, marijuana, or other drugs because many substances impair driving ability. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), driving under the influence puts drivers as well as others on the road at risk of injuries or even death. Cocaine, methamphetamine, and other illegal drugs impair drivers’ coordination, judgment, and reaction times; however, prescriptions and over-the-counter medicines can have negative effects as well. The NHTSA reports that in 2018, 10,511 people were killed in drunk driving collisions, and every day, approximately 30 people in the U.S. die in drunk driving car accidents.

December is a Dangerous Month for Virginia Drivers

Over the past five years, approximately 300 people died in drunk driving crashes between the week of Christmas and New Year, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT). In 2019, there were 264 alcohol-related crashes in Virginia alone, accounting for 32 percent of all traffic fatalities in the state last year. The Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles cautions against driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs, noting that the chance of being in an alcohol-related crash is one in six over the course of a person’s lifetime.

A person who drives under the influence may be liable for any resulting injuries and property damage. Virginia has strict drunk and drugged driving laws; offenders may be subject to various penalties, depending on the circumstances of their case.

What are the Consequences of Impaired Driving in Virginia?

Driving under the influence is both dangerous and illegal. In Virginia, those who are convicted of driving while intoxicated (DWI) may face increasingly harsh penalties, depending on whether they have a prior history of drunk driving.

Some of the consequences of driving under the influence in Virginia include:

  • Fines: For a first offense, drivers may receive a fine of $250 to $2,500, while second-time offenders may receive a fine of $500 to $2,500, and third-time offenders may receive a fine of $1,000 to $1,500.
  • Driver’s License Suspension: A driver may face a one-year driver’s license suspension for a first offense, three years for a second, and indefinite suspension for a third DWI conviction.
  • Ignition Interlock: As a condition of having a restricted license for a conviction under the driving under the influence law in Virginia, a driver must have an ignition interlock device installed on their vehicle for at least six months.
  • Imprisonment: First-time offenders may face up to 12 months in jail, second-time offenders may face ten days to 12 months, and third-time offenders face 90 days to five years imprisonment.
  • Virginia Alcohol Safety Action Program (ASAP): The court may order the offender to complete a Virginia ASAP within 15 days of their conviction date.

How is Drug Impairment Determined?

Virginia is a per se state, meaning that a driver does not actually have to be intoxicated to receive a DWI; all that is required is for the driver’s blood alcohol (BAC) level to be at 0.08 percent or higher. Likewise, a driver who has a certain blood concentration of methamphetamine, cocaine, or other drugs may be convicted under such per se laws. Motorists younger than 21 years old and commercial drivers are subject to stricter limits.

Anyone operating a vehicle in Virginia gives implied consent to submit to a breath or a blood test after being arrested for a DWI. It is therefore mandatory for drivers to cooperate with police officers who request such tests; refusing a breathalyzer or other field sobriety test may result in penalties. such as fines, jail time, a driver’s license suspension, and demerit points added to the offender’s driving record.

Liability for Drunk and Drugged Driving Injuries and Deaths

A motorist who fatally injures another person while driving under the influence may be convicted of involuntary manslaughter or aggravated involuntary manslaughter and may face up to 20 years in prison, an indefinite drivers’ license suspension, and felony charges. A new Virginia law passed in 2019 makes it a Class 6 felony to drive or operate a vehicle in a manner that causes serious bodily injury to another person. It also increases the punishment for someone who, as a result of driving while intoxicated, causes serious bodily injury to another person, resulting in permanent and significant physical impairment.

However, an individual who causes an injury as a result of driving while intoxicated may also face civil liability. Someone who is injured in a car accident due to drunk or drugged driving may be able to claim compensation from the responsible driver in a personal injury lawsuit. The types of damages available for car accident victims include compensation for:

However, the plaintiff in a personal injury lawsuit must show that the other driver was to blame for the accident. Virginia is a contributory negligence state, therefore, a plaintiff who is even one percent responsible for causing their accident is barred from recovery. In other words, the drunk or drugged driver must have been 100 percent at fault in order for a Virginia plaintiff to recover.

What if Someone is Killed in a Drunk or Drugged Driving Car Accident?

In Virginia, family members or dependents of those who are killed by drunk or drugged drivers may file a wrongful death lawsuit within two years of the date of the deceased person’s death. Such family members, or statutory beneficiaries, include:

  • Spouse
  • Children
  • Grandchildren
  • Parents
  • Siblings
  • Dependents
  • Other family members entitled to inherit the deceased’s estate

The family of the deceased may be able to claim compensation for mental anguish, loss of care and companionship, the value of lost wages and benefits, medical expenses related to the injuries, reasonable funeral and burial expenses, and punitive damages.

Drive Safely This Holiday Season

The NHTSA urges drivers to have a plan this holiday season. By taking a few precautions, drivers can stay safe and protect others on the road. Some tips for preventing drunk or drugged driving accidents include:

  • Stay sober.
  • Designate a driver ahead of time.
  • Alternate between alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages.
  • Do not mix alcohol and other drugs.
  • Call a taxi or a ridesharing service.
  • Do not ride with someone who has been drinking or using drugs.
  • If hosting a holiday party, provide non-alcoholic beverages, serve snacks or other foods, stop serving alcohol at least one hour before the party is over, and do not let intoxicated guests drive home.
  • Drive defensively, stay alert, and be on the lookout for impaired drivers.
  • Report suspected drunk or drugged drivers to the police.
  • Explain the risks of drunk and drugged driving to family members and friends.
  • Remind teenagers how dangerous it is to drive drunk; car accidents are the leading cause of teen deaths.
  • Always wear a seat belt.
  • If an accident does happen, contact a lawyer for assistance.

Virginia Beach Car Accident Lawyers Represent Victims Injured in Drunk and Drugged Driving Crashes

If you were injured in a drunk or drugged driving car accident, contact one of our Virginia Beach car accident lawyers today. At East Coast Trial Lawyers, we help injured clients obtain entitled damages, including compensation for medical bills, lost income, and pain and suffering. Contact us online or call us at 757-352-2237 for a free consultation today. Located in Virginia Beach, Virginia, we serve clients throughout Chesapeake, Eastern Shores, Hampton, Newport News, Norfolk, Portsmouth, and Suffolk, Virginia, as well as North Carolina and nationwide.

Areas We Serve

Our law firm proudly serves clients injured anywhere in Virginia or North Carolina on personal injury claims, including cases with traumatic brain injury, spinal and neck injury, wrongful death, and more serious injuries. As Virginia Beach personal injury attorneys with many years experience, our team of lawyers will be ready to fight for you. If you were injured on the job, our Virginia Beach Workers Compensation lawyers are ready to serve you.

Call 757-352-2237 or fill out the online contact form for a free consultation about your personal injury, workers compensation, or other attorney services. Our firm adopts a team approach to every case, so while one primary lawyer will be assigned to your case, you have the benefit of an experienced team of lawyers, all working on your side. We are located in Virginia Beach, VA, and serve clients who were injured anywhere in Virginia or North Carolina.

301 Bendix Road, Suite 460
Virginia Beach VA 23452
Ph: 757-352-2237 | Fax: 757-994-8910