A driver who State Highway Patrol troopers described as being under the “major” influence of alcohol has been charged with killing a 17-year-old bike rider in the Brunswick County, North Carolina (NC), town of Supply. The fatal rear-end collision happened at around noon on July 19, 2017.
According to reports, the at-fault driver ran off the right side of Civietown Road before hitting the bicyclist from behind. The young man, who had lived in Wilmington, died from his injuries at the scene. Now, the 42-year-old driver faces preliminary charges of felony death by motor vehicle, driving while impaired and failure to reduce speed.
Section 2--141.4(a1) of the North Carolina Code states that taking a life while driving will be considered as felony offense when all the following circumstances exist:
- The person unintentionally causes the death of another person,
- The person was engaged in the offense of impaired driving …, and
- The commission of the offense … is the proximate cause of the death
In plain language, law enforcement officials found evidence that the driver who rear-ended the teen bike rider did not mean to inflict fatal injuries but did so because he was drunk and that the young man would have lived if the driver impaired by alcohol had not hit him.
This tragedy in Brunswick County sadly illustrates the dangers of drunk driving. It also highlights the broader problem of not sharing the road safely with bicycles. Civietown Road has two lanes and narrow shoulders. People in cars and trucks must give bike riders enough space while passing or slow down until moving around a bicycle can be done safely.
The Driver’s Handbook published by the North Carolina Department of Transportation summarizes the relevant statutes and practical safety advice in a section titled “Pass with Care”:
A bicyclist staying to the right in their lane is accommodating following drivers by making it easier to see when it is safe to pass, and easier to execute the pass. Drivers wishing to pass a bicyclist may do so only when there is abundant clearance and no oncoming traffic is in the opposing lane. When passing a bicyclist, always remember the bicyclist is entitled to use of the full lane.
My Carolina wrongful death attorney law firm colleagues and I send our heartfelt condolences out to the friends and family of the teenager killed so needlessly. We want everyone to understand that staying sober and giving bike riders wide berth saves lives.