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North Carolina Traffic Safety: From Drugs to Cell Phones, Motorists Influence Risks

A 23-year-old woman will spend up to four years in prison for causing a deadly accident in Mecklenburg County, WBTV News reported.

North Carolina personal injury lawyers continue to see an increase in the number of serious and fatal traffic accidents caused by distracted driving, as well as those caused by drivers who are under the influence of illegal or prescription drugs. Like with drunk driving, society’s tolerance continues to diminish with each passing year, as states enact tougher laws and penalties for drivers using hand-held electronic devices behind the wheel. And for those who drive under the influence of substances other than alcohol.In this case, the driver was sentenced to 2.5 to 4 years in prison and ordered to pay $30,000 in restitution. She was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter, assault with a deadly weapon, reckless driving, possession of marijuana and possession of drug paraphernalia.

One woman survived the crash but the other victim was killed. A doctor testified the driver had prescription medication in her system when she ran over two nurses out for a smoke break on the sidewalk. She admitted to smoking marijuana, drinking alcohol and taking Xanax the night before the crash and told jurors she was reaching for her cigarettes when the wreck occurred.

A state chemist stated that the driver also had the painkiller oxycodone in her system.

In cases involving serious or fatal injuries, authorities will frequently order a drug test. However, accidents caused by distracted driving are often not nearly as well documented. Even those cases where prescription or illegal narcotics are involved can require an experienced accident attorney to uncover all of an accident’s contributing causes.

Even in this case, medical experts could not testify the driver was under the influence at the time of the accident — only that the drugs were present in her system. Thus, distraction became a focal point as to causation. In many cases, contacting an experienced law firm in the immediate aftermath of an accident can have a number of positive results. Even something as simply as inspecting the wrecked vehicles can sometimes uncover the fact that a cell phone was in use or that a driver was eating lunch or otherwise distracted at the time of a crash.

Cell phone companies have also begun to respond to the risks of driver distraction. While it has been decades since the industry stopped referring to the devices as “car phones,” the ensuing epidemic of distraction has done nothing to lessen the industry’s responsibility even as it churns out next-generation smartphones by the millions.

As CNN reports, AT&T promoted its “It Can Wait” campaign by broadcasting the public service campaign during the Olympic Games in London. First launched in 2009, the campaign aims to reduce distractions caused by text messaging, especially among young drivers. The company will continue to emphasize the campaign through Sept. 19, which has been dubbed “No Texting on Board – Pledge Day.”

Instances of texting while driving increased 50 percent in 2010 alone. And those who text behind the wheel are 23 times more likely to get into an accident.

Competitors, including Sprint and Verizon, also have public service campaigns to support distracted-driving awareness.

If you or a loved one is involved in an accident, contact Grimes Teich Anderson LLP. Call 1.800.533.6845. No Attorney Fees Until You’ve Been Paid.

Additional Resources

AT&T asks drivers to take no texting pledge, By Doug Gross, CNN, Aug. 15, 2012.

North Carolina Car Accidents: Teens Ignoring Cell-Phone Law, Texting Behind the Wheel, North Carolina Personal Injury Lawyer Blog, July 24, 2012.

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