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Summertime DUI Accident Kills One Teen and Injures Four Others in West Virginia

Colin Qualls was just 16 and had most of his life ahead of him. According to news sources, he attended Riverside High School, lived in Cedar Grove, West Virginia and was a member of the Army Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps.

DUI Accident

Unfortunately, Colin won’t get a chance to realize the rest of his dreams. His life ended late at night on a dark West Virginia road when, according to police, a teen who was driving under the influence crashed the vehicle Colin was a passenger in.  Police said that at about 11:30 p.m. on July 25, 2013 the car crashed along Hughes Creek Road in Kanawha County. Four other teens were injured in the crash.

Troopers told the driver swerved off the road and hit a telephone pole and several fences, before coming to a stop in front of a house.  Police said they believe the driver was driving under the influence at the time of the accident. First Sergeant Michael Baylous of West Virginia State Police said state police will be seeking an arrest warrant for the driver on DUI resulting in death, WCHS8 reported.

The driver and unnamed teens aged 16 and 17 were also hurt in this automobile crash. All of them were students at Riverside High.

This tragedy highlights the dangers  that our teens face when they combine drugs, alcohol and/or driving. It’s a problem that’s particularly prevalent when schools are out for the summer.

As a West Virginia injury lawyer, I see often see this problem first hand. Teens are far more likely than any other age group to be involved in accidents even before the temptations of drugs and alcohol become factors.  This is due to the fact that teens are relative inexperienced drivers.  Teenagers are also still developing physically and cognitively, which can make them more impulsive and impair their understanding of dangers and ability to concentrate.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), just 6 percent of licensed drivers are aged 15 to 20, but 19 percent of all fatal crashes involved this age group in 2007. Almost 60 percent of fatal teen crashes occurred on rural roads and alcohol was a significant factor, even though these drivers are not allowed to consume alcohol by law.

“In 2007, 31 percent of young drivers 15 to 20 years old who were killed had blood alcohol concentrations (BACs) of .01 grams/deciliter (g/dL) or greater, and 26 percent of young drivers had BACs of .08 g/dL or greater,” stated the NHTSA report.  Inexperienced young drivers, alcohol, summer boredom and the twisting rural roads of West Virginia are a potentially lethal combination.

Fed­eral sta­tis­tics reveal that the aver­age num­ber of teenagers who are killed in road accidents dou­bles dur­ing the three months that begin when schools end for the sum­mer. Seven of the 10 dead­liest days for teen dri­vers are found in these three months, and data from 2011 shows party week­ends are the most dan­ger­ous dates for teens, specifically the last Sat­ur­day in June, two days over the July 4 week­end and a Sun­day late in August just before uni­ver­si­ties re-open for fall.

“Beyond dis­pute, sum­mer­time emerges as the dead­liest time of year for teen dri­vers and pas­sen­gers,” John B. Townsend II of AAA, who works on identifying teenage death sta­tis­tics, told the Wash­ing­ton Post. “What’s more, week­ends are par­tic­u­larly dan­ger­ous for teen drivers.”

Tips to protect you and your family from DUI accidents and injuries

Of course, the most important thing is to not drive under the influence.  However, it is equally important to never get into a car that is being driven by someone intoxicated as Colin Qualls’ life and death reminds us.  Identifying a designated driver ahead of time is often helpful.

Reminding teens to not drink, and especially not to drink and drive can help.  Parents may be able to make their communications more effective by asking their teens to  promise not to drink before handing them over the car keys.  Reminding teens that summertime and rural roads increase the odds of automobile accidents involving teens.

Another strategy a parent can use is to invite their teens to call home for a ride, rather than risk driving with an intoxicated friend.  This is challenging because to be effective, the parent will likely need to convince their teen that they will not judge them if they call home intoxicated asking for a ride.  However, this presents parents a wonderful opportunity to really connect and listen to their teens.

It is also important for teens and parents to remember drug use impairs driving and is a major cause of DUIs.  West Virginia has particular problems with teens abusing prescription pain medications and tranquilizers like Lortab, oxycodone, valium and Klonopin.

Consult with a West Virginia Injury Attorney

If you or a loved one has been injured in a car accident or due to someone driving under the influence, it is important to contact an experienced West Virginia car accident lawyer as soon as possible after the incident.  Insurance adjusters and law enforcement will seek to take your recorded statement and having an attorney present can protect your interests.  Also, obtaining proper medical care can be a challenge after an accident.  That is why West Law Firm offers free and confidential consultations.  We also never recover a fee until we win your case.  Our toll free number is 1-877-943-9378.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to all those involved in this tragic incident, including their families and community.

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