In 2013, 741 individuals lost their lives on Virginia’s roadways. While shocking, this number constitutes a slight improvement over 2012, when 775 individuals died in crashes on the roads of the Commonwealth. Unfortunately, 253 of those traffic deaths in 2013 resulted from driving under the influence of alcohol. That figure represents a 10.48% increase over alcohol-related fatalities on Virginia’s roadways in 2012. The increase in 2013 followed what had been a 5 year decline in alcohol related fatalities.[1
In an attempt to reduce this alarming trend, Governor Terry McAuliffe has rolled out the state’s newest campaign, a website called: “Virginia Faces of Drunk Driving.” Every few days the website publishes a profile of an individual whose life has been impacted by drunk driving. Some of the stories focus on innocent victims who were killed and the family and friends that they left behind. Other stories deal with drunk drivers who injured or killed someone while behind the wheel. These profiles highlight the criminal consequences of being convicted of driving under the influence through the narratives of people who have experienced the ramifications of criminal prosecution.
One profile tells the story of Laura Marie Etzell, who was a rising senior at Old Dominion University when the car in which she was riding was T-boned by a drunk driver who ran a red light. Laura and her boyfriend were coming home from a country music concert in Virginia Beach at the time of the crash. Both were killed on impact. The drunk driver was 20 years old and driving on a suspended license. Laura’s mother tells the heart-wrenching story of the last time she saw her daughter alive and how difficult life has been for their family since Laura’s death.
One twenty year old female told her story of being arrested and convicted of DUI and underage possession of alcohol. She described how embarrassing it was to have to blow into an ignition interlock device in order to start her car and how her mug shot was featured in the tabloid newspaper, “Gotcha.”
The website also has a section entitled “Face the Facts” where it details the criminal punishment in Virginia for DUI. A first-time offender’s license will be automatically suspended for one week, the mandatory fine is $250, and ignition interlock is mandatory for at least 6 months. A second-time DUI offender can face a suspension of his or her driver’s license for up to 3 years with up to a 1 year jail term. On the third offense, which is considered a class 6 felony, the state can seize your vehicle, indefinitely suspend your driver’s license, and there is a mandatory jail term of at least 90 days.
In the press release announcing the launch of the website, Governor McAuliffe said, “Given that drunk driving is a 100% preventable crime, even one death is too many. . . Last year’s increase in fatalities should be a huge wake-up call to all Virginians that we cannot rest until all of our friends and families are safe from these terrible and unnecessary tragedies.”
About The Author: Scott Fitzgerald is a personal injury attorney with the law firm of Allen & Allen in Richmond, Virginia. He represents the fourth generation of the Allen family to join the Allen Law Firm. His practice areas include car accidents, truck accidents, motorcycle accidents, and bicycle accidents.