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DWI fatalities in North Carolina continue despite tough laws

When a drunk driver causes a serious or fatal accident in North Carolina, he or she can face liability in a personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit. If the driver had been over-served at a bar or restaurant, that establishment could face liability, too, thanks to the state’s dram shop laws.

In addition to a civil lawsuit, the drunk driver can also expect to face serious criminal charges. But the leader of a Western North Carolina chapter for Mothers Against Drunk Driving says that while the state’s DWI laws are tough, they are not effective enough at preventing repeat offenders.

In fact, there were 49,599 DWI arrests and 388 drunk driving-related fatal car accidents last year alone in North Carolina.

One of the biggest reasons for these high numbers could be that courts are hesitant to convict drunk drivers with results from blood-alcohol tests, but those can take as long as two years to get back.

During that time, suspected drunk drivers are allowed to remain behind the wheel, and sometimes the cases are dropped to avoid a problem with the state’s “speedy trial” law. Allowing these drivers back on the roads increases the likelihood of repeat offenses and drunk driving accidents, the MADD leader said.

For example, a 26-year-old North Carolina man is currently facing DWI charges in three different counties over a three-month period. One of the charges involves a head-on collision that left two people injured.

The state plans on building a new crime lab, which could speed up the processing of blood tests, but that’s not expected to happen for several years. That’s why the MADD leader is urging lawmakers to pass legislation that would seize the vehicles of suspected drunk drivers while their cases are processing.

The state’s 23-member DWI task force may want to consider this option as a way to reduce DWI fatalities, especially those caused by repeat offenders.

Source: Blue Ridge Now, “Tough laws may need to be tougher,” Feb. 7, 2014

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