In an official count of West Virginia highway deaths in 2014, the number of deaths has fallen significantly. Motor owners in Virginia are also being held responsible for DUI accidents caused by drivers other than the vehicle’s owner, says state Supreme Court judge.

West Virginia arrests front seat passenger for allowing friend to DUI

The state Supreme Court, on a 3 to 2 decision, upheld the penalty imposed on Jason F. Uhl, who was charged with riding in the passenger seat of his SUV while someone else under the influence of alcohol was behind the wheel.

As per Uhl, he along with a couple of friends Robert Lee Morris and Randy Spurlock went to a Charleston casino on the night of October 15th, 2010. Uhl admitted he had more than a few drinks that night and therefore decided to let his friend Morris drive. Uhl says he found no evidence of Morris being drunk or that he had six beers and allowed his friend to drive his car while he sat in the passenger seat.

On Highway 64 they were asked to pull over by trooper R.A. Phillips after he found them speeding at 71 mph in a 50 mph zone. During the traffic stop, the trooper suspected the driver to be under the influence of alcohol and asked Morris to take a sobriety test, which the driver failed. According to police reports, there were open cans of beer in the car which was enough to make an arrest.

The DMV suspended Uhl’s license but the Office of Administrative Hearings (OAH) did not find enough evidence to establish Uhl’s guilt. However, given the state wanting to show its strict outlook for DUI incidences, the High Court overturned OAH’s decision and found Uhl guilty. According to Beckley WV DUI attorneys following the case, the High Court found Uhl guilty of a state law that makes it a crime for the owner to knowingly allow a drunken person to drive the owner’s car.

The traffic fatalities significantly down in West Virginia

A stricter stance by the authorities toward DUI and traffic offenders has made it more difficult for defense attorneys to be able to get their clients off the hook. As a result drivers have been more careful to abide by the states safety laws. In addition, the fear of having their driver’s license suspended has proved to be a major deterrent to otherwise habitual DUI offenders. Beckley WV DUI attorneys welcome the move and look forward to a decrease in fatalities.

Factors that have helped save lives in West Virginia

Governor’s Highway Safety Program Director Bob Tipton said that the biggest reason for the fall in highway related fatalities is the seat belt law which took off in the summer of 2013. Reports show a 7 to 8 percent increase in seatbelt usage rates while safety awareness campaigns have reduced incidences of cell phone usage while driving. The other factors that have contributed to a reduction in accidents are the introduction of highway infrastructures like guardrails and median cables. Tipton also stressed the need to address DUI along with distractions that happen while driving.