One Text or Call Could Wreck it All

The West Virginia Texting Bill that passed the Senate earlier this month is now in the House. The legislation makes it illegal to text or talk on a hand-held cell phone while driving. The Senate bill makes it a primary offense. The House has yet to decide.   All distractions endanger driver, passenger, and bystander safety.  The National Safety Council has designated April 1-30, 2012 as National Distracted Driving Awareness Month in a concentrated effort to educate the public of the dangers of any distractions that impair driving.

Update:  The texting bill passed in WV, and it is now a primary offense if you are caught texting while driving.

The Senate sent the texting bill to the House with texting as a primary offense and talking on a hand-held cell phone a secondary offense.  The WV House voted to make both texting and use of a hand-held cell phone primary offenses with $100, $200, and $500 fines.  In conference committee Saturday evening, the three senators suggested a compromise phasing in the hand-held provision as a primary offense after two years.  The House responded that if the Senate would agree to a one year phase in, they would agree to lower the fines to $100, $200, and $300 for first and subsequent offenses.  When the bill goes to the governor, texting will be a primary offense as of July 1, 2012 and use of a hand-held phone a secondary offense.  Use of a hand-held phone will become a primary offense on July 1, 2013.  Though the governor’s original bill made both offenses secondary, the governor has said he supports the bill as it is and praises it as a measure to make West Virginia roads safer.

According to a United States Government program called Distraction.gov, distracted driving is any activity that could divert a person’s attention away from the primary task of driving.

These types of distractions include:

  • Texting
  • Using a cell phone or smartphone
  • Eating and drinking
  • Talking to passengers
  • Grooming
  • Reading, including maps
  • Using a navigation system
  • Watching a video
  • Adjusting a radio, CD player, or MP3 player

But, because text messaging requires visual, manual, and cognitive attention from the driver, it is by far the most alarming distraction.

The best way to end distracted driving is to educate all Americans about the danger it poses. On this page, you’ll find facts and statistics that are powerfully persuasive. If you don’t already think distracted driving is a safety problem, please take a moment to learn more. And, as with everything on Distraction.gov, please share these facts with others. Together, we can help save lives..

Key Facts and Statistics

  • In 2009, 5,474 people were killed in crashes involving driver distraction, and an estimated 448,000 were injured. (NHTSA)
  • 16% of fatal crashes in 2009 involved reports of distracted driving. (NHTSA)
  • 20% of injury crashes in 2009 involved reports of distracted driving. (NHTSA)
  • In the month of June 2011, more than 196 billion text messages were sent or received in the US, up nearly 50% from June 2009. (CTIA)
  • Teen drivers are more likely than other age groups to be involved in a fatal crash where distraction is reported. In 2009, 16% of teen drivers involved in a fatal crash were reported to have been distracted. (NHTSA)
  • 40% of all American teens say they have been in a car when the driver used a cell phone in a way that put people in danger. (Pew)
  • Drivers who use hand-held devices are 4 times more likely to get into crashes serious enough to injure themselves. (Monash University)
  • Text messaging creates a crash risk 23 times worse than driving while not distracted. (VTTI)
  • Sending or receiving a text takes a driver’s eyes from the road for an average of 4.6 seconds, the equivalent-at 55 mph-of driving the length of an entire football field, blind. (VTTI)
  • Headset cell phone use is not substantially safer than hand-held use. (VTTI)
  • Using a cell phone while driving – whether it’s hand-held or hands-free delays a driver’s reactions as much as having a blood alcohol concentration at the legal limit of .08 percent. (University of Utah)
  • Driving while using a cell phone reduces the amount of brain activity associated with driving by 37%. (Carnegie Mellon)
 

Chart from NegligentDriving.com

Robinette Legal Group, PLLC: We’re here to help.

If we can be of any further assistance to you, it would be our pleasure to speak with you personally about your injury claim. You may reach us at http://www.robinettelaw.com and http://www.robinettelaw.com/Car-Accident-Injuries/ or call our law office at 1-304-594-1800.

Additional information from a community outreach sponsored by Verizon Wireless which seeks to educate the public and support legislation and new technological solutions for driving responsibly:  http://aboutus.verizonwireless.com/commitment/safety_security/dont_text_and_drive/

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Pickup Truck Driver Killed in Head on Collision with a Coal Truck

A Blacksville, WV man was killed in a collision with a coal truck in  Monongalia County when his pickup truck crossed the center line on the Mason Dixon bridge.  West Virginia Highway 7 was closed for several hours as emergency crews responded to the truck accident.  The driver of the coal truck, who was hauling coal from the Blacksville No. 2 mine to Longview Power Plant, is in good physical condition.  The cause of the fatal driving error is not yet known.

Information and photo from The Dominion Post, Morgantown, WV.

The National Safety Council has designated April 1-30, 2012 as Distracted Driving Awareness Month.  For more information, see blog “One Text or Call Could Wreck it All.”

Robinette Legal Group, PLLC: We’re here to help.

If we can be of any further assistance to you, it would be our pleasure to speak with you personally about injury claims. You may reach us at http://www.robinettelaw.com and http://www.robinettelaw.com/Car-Accident-Injuries/ or call our law office at 1-304-594-1800.

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Mine Safety Bill – Keeping our Miners Safe

According to WV MetroNews, this could be the week that the proposed comprehensive mine safety bill is passed.  The bill is designed to address some of the problems that led up to the Upper Big Branch mine disaster that claimed the lives of 29 miners in April of 2010.

All sides have agreed to rock dusting, ventilation plans, methane monitoring for coal mines, and family representation for any future deadly mine accidents.  The proposed bill also makes it a crime to warn a coal operator that a mine inspector is on site, puts stricter controls on keeping coal dust under control, and mandates that mining machines automatically shut down when methane levels build up.  The legislation also requires drug testing of certified coal miners and others who are routinely present at mining sites.

The exact language is still being debated, but all are agreed that these brave workers must be protected from preventable disasters.

If you or your family has been affected by a workplace accident, please visit us at http://www.robinettelaw.com or call us at 304-594-1800 for the help you need.

West Virginia Bills – Keeping You Safe on the Road

The West Virginia texting bill passed the Senate earlier this month and is now in the House.  This legislation will make texting or talking on a hand-held cell phone while driving a primary offense.

A seat belt bill will also be up for a vote in the Senate this week.  This bill would make not wearing a seat belt a primary offense.  Current state law makes seat belt non-use a secondary offense.  Kanawha County Senator Corey Palumbo has been working on this bill for several years with the goal of reducing the number of deaths and serious injuries on West Virginia roads each year.  Thirty-five states have already implemented similar seat belt laws. 

If you are in a major crash, you have about a 25% chance of survival without a seatbelt compared to a 52% rate of survival if you are wearing a seat belt. 

If you or your loved one has been  affected by a serious car accident, please visit us at http://www.robinettelaw.com or call our office at 304-594-1800 for help today.

Tough DUI Laws – Should West Virginia Follow Our Neighbor’s Example?

By Kimberly Hood

DUIDoes $5,000 seem a little expensive for a night out on the town? If so, you better not get caught drinking and driving.  According to the Tennessee Department of Safety, the required fees and associated expenses for someone charged with DUI comes to a minimum of $5,000. The reason for this is that there are many different costs incurred for a DUI. Besides the expected fees like court costs, bail, and attorney’s fees, the driver will also have to pay for increased insurance due to the SR-22 form (mandatory for drivers with a DUI on their record), the towing bill, and for a mandatory alcohol education class. A study recently conducted by Vanderbilt suggested that the estimated $5,000 is certainly the minimum and that actual costs can be much higher — up to $15,000 for a first time conviction depending on attorney’s fees and the scenario of the arrest.

In addition to monetary consequences, a first time DUI offense also carries a jail sentence of at least 24 hours, and the person’s license being revoked for a minimum of one year. Also, the newest and most controversial addition to the Tennessee DUI Law, referred to as the “Shame on You” Law, requires those convicted of a DUI to spend at least 24 hours picking up trash along Tennessee roadways while wearing brightly colored vests with ‘I’m a drunk driver’ printed on the back. Those who support this policy site the money the state saves by not requiring a lengthy jail sentence, the improved appearance of roadways, and the psychological effect of “guilting” DUI offenders into cleaning up their act as positive incentives for continuing the new program. However, opponents of the law argue that the psychological effect will not have a lasting impact on behavior and that 24 hours of community service is far less harsh than other sentences for lesser crimes. The debate continues, but for now, DUI offenders can look forward to cleaning up Tennessee roads wearing a vest that boldly proclaims their crime.

However, it is fairly well known that drinking and driving is a crime and that those convicted of a DUI will face very serious consequences. What is not so widely known is that you don’t actually have to be driving to be charged with a DUI. Under new Tennessee law you can be charged with a DUI if you allow someone that is intoxicated to drive your car. This is known as DUI by consent. In this case of DUI by consent, the owner of the car faces the same consequences as the driver. You both will pay at least $5,000 and have your licenses revoked. The only upside to that scenario is that you’d get to share your jail cell with someone you know.

Under this new law you don’t even have to be present in the car to receive a DUI by consent. Such is the story of a Greeneville man who loaned his car to his brother in law. The man only loaned him the car to use for getting to and from work, but when the brother in law was slapped with a DUI while driving the man’s car, he got one too.

Also, you can be charged with DUI if you are a sober passenger in the car. In Story v. United States the court ruled that “when one sits by the side of another and permits him without protest to operate a vehicle on a highway in the state of intoxication, the one sitting by is as guilty as the man at the wheel.” So if you ever think that someone driving might be intoxicated, it could be worth $5,000 and at least a day of your life for you to find a sober ride home.

However, while $5,000 is the estimated total cost of a DUI, it will cost much more than that if the driver actually injures property or a person while driving. Tennessee law states that the owner/passenger is just as responsible for the actions of the driver as the driver himself if the owner/passenger knew that the driver was intoxicated or even that they had the potential to be drinking and driving. Both the non-present owner and the passenger can be held liable for civil damages or charged with a crime that results from allowing an intoxicated driver to take the wheel. If the driver commits a crime, the owner or passenger is guilty of aiding and abetting the crime. Tennessee courts have recently charged a passenger with manslaughter as a result of the driver’s actions and stated that the law extends to owners as well.

Insurance agent Paul Moore emphasizes to clients that aside from the immediate costs inflicted by a DUI, insurance rates will drastically increase because a DUI charge makes drivers ineligible for standard insurance for a minimum of 5 years. He estimates that insurance premiums on liability only coverage will at best triple after a DUI and that full coverage will be affected even more drastically. Also, if the driver is underage when they receive a DUI, they are ineligible for standard coverage until age 25. He knew of several situations in which an underage driver was charged with a DUI while still on his parents’ insurance plan. In one such instance the child was cancelled from the insurance plan and had to be insured through a non-standard company from age 18 until age 25 costing thousands of dollars in increased premiums. In many other situations the family couldn’t afford the increased rates for that long a time period and simply cancelled insurance on the child and sold the car.

Moore also pointed out that while a child can usually be cancelled from a family’s insurance plan in order to avoid the entire family being dropped from coverage, that isn’t the case with family insurance for a young married couple. He insured a couple, both under the age of 25, and when the husband got a DUI, both the husband and the wife were dropped and sent to a non-standard insurance company since they were on the same plan. “That situation is especially devastating because it triples the insurance premiums on both cars. It’s hard enough to make it financially when you’re first married without that kind of burden. It’s a real shame to see people having to spend years of their lives digging themselves out of a hole all because of one mistake that could have been avoided by simply finding a sober driver or calling a cab,” says Moore.

The moral of the story: don’t drink and drive and don’t let anyone else do it either– especially if they’re driving your car.

http://web.utk.edu/~khood3/jem222/stories/DUILaws

If you or a loved one has been injured by a drunk or intoxicated driver, please contact a car accident lawyer at http://www.robinettelaw.com or call us at 304-594-1800 for help today.

Story Links:TDOT
–> See “The Cost of Drinking and Driving”

DUI Network
–> Answers to Frequently Asked DUI Questions

 

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Car Crashes Through KFC Window

LANDOVER, Md. –  WUSA Channel 9 News:  The driver of a BMW traveling at high speed down Martin Luther King Jr. Highway lost control of the car and crashed into a Kentucky Fried Chicken Restaurant at about 6:30 p.m. Monday, Prince George’s County police said.

Officials say a speeding BMW hit a curb at the intersection of Sheriff Road and Martin Luther King Highway Monday night, sending the vehicle flying into the air, flipping repeatedly until it smashed into trees, a car vacuum at an adjacent gas station, and a fence separating the gas station from the restaurant. The vehicle then crashed into a red SUV parked at the KFC.  The driver of that car was also hospitalized with non-life threatening injuries.

Julie Parker, spokeswoman for the Prince George’s County Police Department, says investigators believe the person killed in the crash was the driver of the BMW.  At least two others were injured and taken to local hospitals.

The impact of the crash shattered the large glass windows of the KFC, sending broken shards throughout the restaurant. Those inside the restaurant scrambled to get out of the way as debris rained all over the area.

Sgt. Todd May Killed in DUI Car Accident/Jerod Green Trial

Jerod Green Sentenced to 25-50 Years in Prison

02/19/2013: Jerod Green, 36, was sentenced in Green County, Pa. court Tuesday morning. A jury convicted Green last year on third-degree murder charges in the May’s death during a police pursuit. Green has been sentenced to 25-50 years in prison. Green, 36, will not be eligible for parole until he serves 25 years, Pennsylvania corrections and parole officials said. That will be in 2037, when Green is 60 years old.
If parole is never granted, he will complete his sentence in 50 years. There is no good time — time off for good behavior — for violent offenders in Pennsylvania, officials said.

According to Brandy Brubaker of the Dominion Post, Morgantown: Greene County, Pa., Judge William Nalitz said the only thing he could do to keep Jerod Green from driving drunk and killing again was to put him behind bars for a long time. “I am struck by the inevitableness of this,” Nalitz said Tuesday. “You were going to continue on this path until you killed someone or yourself.” Green, a repeat DUI offender, was driving drunk and fleeing police from Monongalia County early Feb. 18, 2012, when he crashed into May’s patrol vehicle, which was sitting on the side of Interstate 79 just over the Pennsylvania border. “You have devastated one family and you wounded Deputy May’s department and his community grievously,” Nalitz said.

Jerod Green Found Guilty of Third Degree Murder — What is the difference between First and Third Degree Murder?

12/13/2012:  The jury has rendered its verdict in the trial of Jerod Green.  Green was found guilty of 3rd degree murder (instead of the 1st degree murder charges he was facing) for killing Sgt. Todd May on February 18, 2012.  Green will be sentenced later this year.  He is facing up to forty years in prison.

What is the difference between first and third degree murder?

In most states, first-degree murder is defined as an unlawful killing that is both willful and premeditated, meaning that it was committed after planning or “lying in wait” for the victim.

A general definition of third degree murder:  Killing that resulted from indifference or negligence.  Usually there must be a legal duty (parent – child), but can also include crimes like driving drunk and causing a fatal accident.

Third day of trial:  Jerod Green’s defense attorney only presented one witness on Green’s behalf.  Green himself declined to testify on his own behalf.  Jerod Green’s crash reconstruction expert said he believes Monongalia County Sheriff ’s Department Sgt. Todd May pulled into Green’s path as Green fled police Feb. 18 on Interstate 79, and, therefore, caused the crash that took his life.

Engineer and professional crash reconstructionist Richard Bragg said the assessment of the crash scene by the prosecution’s expert was flawed and said he doesn’t believe Green intentionally hit May, as the prosecution has alleged.Bragg testified Wednesday in the third day of Green’s murder trial in Greene County, Pa. He was the sole defense witness, as Green opted not to testify on his own behalf. Both sides rested their cases and closing arguments will begin this morning. Bragg said that, as May pulled into the interstate, Green could not possibly have had enough time to react and get out of the way quickly enough to avoid a collision.

Source:  The Dominion Post, “Closing Arguments Today,” by Brandy Brubaker, 12/13/2012.

12/12/2012 update: Cpl. John Weaver testified Tuesday in the second day of Jerod Green’s murder trial about his investigation of the fatal crash scene and explained why Green’s defense is improbable.

The trooper said he believes May tried to turn his SUV away to get out of Green’s path, but Green turned his vehicle toward him again and hit him. He said Jerod Green floored his pickup truck and drove directly toward Monongalia County Sheriff ’s Department Sgt. Todd May’s SUV just before the crash that killed the deputy.

Weaver said Green entered I-79 south at Mount Morris, Pa. Previous testimony indicated that he was followed closely behind by several law enforcement officers, two of whom said they witnessed the crash. Weaver said Green should’ve kept heading straight in one of two open lanes of travel if he wanted to continue fleeing.

“He sees a police car and, instead of taking the open path, he moves toward that police car,” Weaver said. Weaver said Green left the on-ramp early. If Green had followed the on-ramp to the end, he said, there wouldn’t have been a crash.

Weaver said Green was traveling about 98 mph and his truck wouldn’t let him go any faster. At about 2.5 seconds before the crash, modules in his truck indicated that Green had his gas pedal pushed 40 percent of the way down. At about 2 seconds before the crash, Green had it pushed 100 percent down, Weaver said. He certainly would’ve saw May’s patrol car — a Jeep Grand Cherokee — with its lights flashing, Weaver said. Green never hit his brakes, Weaver said.

May, he said, had slowly driven through the grassy median between directions of travel and, would’ve most likely seen Green coming right toward him. Weaver believes, in a last-ditch effort to get out of the way, May cut hard to the left and accelerated to 31 mph.

Green then turned his truck to the right, toward where May was turning, and the left front of the truck violently impacted the right front of May’s Jeep, Weaver said.  Weaver said there are two possible reasons that Green would’ve turned his truck to the right: Because he was trying to turn away from May’s Jeep, but inadvertently turned the same way May did or because he was intentionally trying to hit him.

Weaver said it only makes sense that Green intentionally tried to hit May because Green should’ve hit his brakes and traveled straight if he was trying to avoid a collision.  The trooper also noted that May didn’t position his vehicle in a way that would’ve made sense if he was intending to block or ram Green’s truck as Green’s defense has claimed. He said May was most likely intending to join in on the pursuit.

Weaver said he conducted his investigation by gathering data recorded in modules inside both vehicles, diagramming marks and debris at the crash scene, studying the wreckage, reviewing witness statements, and entering data into a specialized computer program.

Other testimony concerning text messages back and forth between Green and two women the night of the accident indicated that he was distraught and possibly suicidal.  For details, see the Dominion Post.

Source:  The Dominion Post, Morgantown, WV:  Brandy Brubaker, reporter.

12/10/2012 update:  Jerod Green’s trial began today with opening arguments from both sides.  In the opening statement in the trial of Jerod Green, Greene County PA District Attorney Marjorie Fox told a mostly male jury that Green committed the “deliberate act of murder” the morning Todd May died. She said Green intentionally drove his pickup truck into May’s parked patrol vehicle as Green fled police trying to pull him over for driving drunk and fleeing a crash on Easton Hill. May’s vehicle, she said, was parked in the median of I-79 south, with its lights activated.

“He didn’t aim a gun at Sgt. May. He didn’t put on a dynamite vest and jump on Sgt. May, but, in the early morning hours of Feb. 18, his Silverado was a deadly weapon,” Fox said.

Green’s attorney, John Bongivengo, said Green had no intent or desire to kill May. Instead, Bongivengo said May’s vehicle pulled out into the path of Green’s. He said a crash reconstruction will support his claim.Jerod Green image

The commonwealth called about 17 witnesses Monday, some whom testified briefly about items in evidence and other procedural matters. Their case will resume this morning.

Sheriff’s Department Sgt. J.E. Burks told jurors Green smelled strongly of alcohol and slurred his speech when he was pulled over on the Easton Hill in Morgantown. He first lied about being at the scene of the hit-and-run, but then said the other driver caused it and he fled because of four previous DUI convictions, Burks said. Another deputy testified that Green told him he had taken some prescription medications that morning — one of which was to treat his bipolar disorder — and said he hadn’t been drinking.

All of a sudden, Burks said he heard that deputy, Dave Wilfong, yelling for Green to stop and then saw Green driving off. A pursuit began, which eventually led to I-79.
Burks said he was directly behind Green as he entered the interstate. Burks said he saw Green speed up, heard his engine roar, and watched as he drove across both lanes of traffic and directly into May’s patrol vehicle, which he said was parked in the median.

May’s vehicle spun violently, he said. There were debris and smoke. Star City Police Department Lt. Varndell said he also saw the impact as he followed behind in the chase. He called for EMS and ran to the deputy’s vehicle, not knowing who was inside. Varndell said May was lying across the back seat. He couldn’t reach a pulse point. A fire erupted in the hood and a passing tractor trailer driver rushed over with an extinguisher.

Varndell returned to May and noticed he was breathing. A nurse, traveling on I-79, stopped to help. They moved May onto the ground and EMS arrived, he said.

In other testimony:
Green’s ex-girlfriend, Holly Brotherton, said she and Green texted back and forth and spoke briefly while he was at a Ruby Tuesday restaurant the night May was killed. She said Green told her via text that she was right to leave him because he was “the devil” and a bad person who would’ve ruined her life.

She said she urged him to stop talking like that and told him to call her if he needed her. The next morning, she found a text that she hadn’t received earlier because her cellphone had no service.  The text was from Green and said he lost the best thing that had ever happened to him and said he didn’t deserve to “live this life with everyone else,” Brotherton said.

Rachel Hutchinson testified that she saw Green at Bugsy’s, a bar on Point Marion Road, later in the night. He was slurring his speech, laying against the table and not making much sense, she said.

Skylar Johnson testified that a large pickup truck struck her car as she traveled down Easton Hill in the early morning hours of Feb. 18. She said the truck drove off. Police later charged Green with the crash. Johnson said her car was destroyed, but she declined treatment from paramedics.

A forensic scientist with the Pennsylvania State Police said Green’s blood alcohol content was .189. The legal limit for driving in both Pennsylvania and West Virginia is .08.
Pennsylvania State Police Trooper Joseph Popielarcheck said he arrested Green at the crash scene and said he smelled of alcohol, had slurred speech and swayed as he stood up.

Source:  The Dominion Post, Morgantown, WV, 12/11/2012 by Brandy Brubaker

11/15/2012:  Nine men and three women have been selected to serve on the jury for Jerod Green’s trial set to begin on December 10, 2012 at 9:00 a.m in Greene County, PA.  The jurors and alternates chosen have been instructed to discuss the case with no one, to attempt no investigation of the case, and to contact the court if anyone tries to contact them about the case.

10/12/12 Update:  According to Brandy Brubaker of the Dominion Post in Morgantown, Jerod Green is set to go to trial in December for the death of Monongalia County Sheriff ’s Department Sgt. Todd May.  Greene County (Pa.) Judge William Nalitz scheduled Green’s trial for Dec. 10. A jury will be selected Nov. 14.  Green’s attorney, John Bongivengo, said all pre-trial issues have been resolved and they will be ready to go to trial in December.  Bongivengo previously asked the court to move the trial to another county because of pre-trial publicity, but Nalitz said he would decide if it is necessary after first trying to pick a jury. 

9/7/12 Update:  A Pennsylvania judge denied almost all of Jerod Green’s attorney’s requests for evidence suppression, but did agree to throw out Green’s alleged admission that he had been drinking the night of the crash that killed Monongalia County Sheriff ’s Sgt. Todd May.  According to WAJR radio news, that testimony will not be allowed because it was allegedly stated by Green before he was read his rights.

Green, 35, of Morgantown, is awaiting trial on charges of murder of a law enforcement officer, homicide by vehicle while DUI, and criminal homicide, among others, for the Feb. 18 crash that killed May. 

Police in Pennsylvania and West Virginia accused Green of driving drunk, fleeing a crash on Easton Hill, driving away from officers who pulled him over on W.Va. 100, and leading police on a chase across the state line thatended when he hit May’s patrol vehicle, which was parked in the median of Interstate 79, just over the Pennsylvania line. Green, however, alleges that May’s vehicle struck his. 

Jury selection in the case is slated to begin Nov. 14, although court officials said a trial date has not yet been set. In Greene County, a jury is selected sometimes weeks or months before the actual trial begins. 

Greene County Judge William Nalitz ruled this week that the commonwealth may introduce at trial the results of Green’s blood alcohol content (BAC) testing and all evidence obtained from searches of Green’s truck, unless the court later determines that specific evidence seized in the searches is inflammatory. Police previously alleged that Green was driving with a BAC of .189 — more than twice the legal driving limit of .08 — the night of the crash. They have not made public any potential evidence seized with the search warrants. 

Nalitz also ruled that the commonwealth may not introduce Green’s alleged admission to Pennsylvania State Police Trooper Joseph Popielarcheck that he had been drinking the night of the crash. 

Popielarcheck briefly spoke with Green while hewas handcuffed in the back of a sheriff ’s deputy’s vehicle just after the crash and asked him if he had been drinking. Shortly thereafter, the trooper placed him under arrest and read him his Miranda rights, the trooper previously testified. 

Green’s attorney, John Bongivengo, argued that Green was already in custody when he was in the back of the cruiser, and as such, his alleged statement should be suppressed because he hadn’t yet been read his Miranda rights. 

Nalitz agreed with that argument, although he didn’t accept Bongivengo’s insistence that all of the evidence obtained after the cruiser questioning should also be stricken. Nalitz said in his order that Popielarcheck still had reason to believe Green was intoxicated without Green’s own alleged admission because he said Green smelled of alcohol and was unsteady in his gait. 

Bongivengo also argued that the evidence obtained from search warrantsshould be barred from trial because the search warrants were “overly broad.” They included the seizure of items such as Green’s cell phones and his GPS and his truck’s event data recorder. 

Nalitz, however, said the warrants asked for the appropriate things an officer would need in a fatal crash investigation. 

“An inspection of the vehicle might even prove exculpatory if it is determined that there was some mechanical failure which caused a loss of control,” Nalitz wrote. “Furthermore, we believe the commonwealth is justified in learning whether [the] defendant was distracted during the alleged pursuit by examining his cell phones for messages sent from or to him at relevant times.” 

Nalitz said, at this point, it is impossible to tell if the evidence will be fruitful to either side. 

He said he’ll make additional rulings if the commonwealth tries to introduce any evidence he deems irrelevant or inflammatory.

The Dominion Post, “Judge:  Most Evidence Stays”, by Brandy Brubaker, 9/7/2012

Original story:  Early Saturday, February 18, 2012, a tragic car accident caused the untimely death of Monongalia County Sheriff Deputy Sgt. Michael Todd May.

According to WV Metro News and The Dominion Post of Morgantown, WV, Sgt. May was assisting in the pursuit of a hit and run suspect fleeing police when his police cruiser was struck on I-79 just north of the Pennsylvania border.  Jerod Alan Green of Morgantown, formerly from Oklahoma, has been charged with homicide by vehicle while DUI, first-degree murder of a law enforcement officer, second degree manslaughter of a law enforcement officer, DUI of a combination of alcohol and drugs, and several other charges. On line records from the Oklahoma State Courts Network indicate a man with the same name and birth date as Green pleaded guilty to third-offense DUI and subsequent offense DUI almost five years ago.

Sgt. May was a ten-year veteran of the force. Monongalia County Sheriff Al Kisner said, “He was one of the good guys. People just genuinely liked him. He had a great sense of humor. The guys that worked for him really liked him, they respected him a lot. He was an excellent deputy. He knew his job and was an intelligent person.  Everybody’s upset, everybody’s hurt. Some people are angry about the way things transpired. This is something that didn’t have to happen.”

Update February 20, 2012:  The Dominion Post of Morgantown documents that Green had previously been charged with at least five DUI charges, as well as assault and battery and methamphetamine charges which were later dropped.

National Commission Against Drunk Driving Statistics

  • 41 percent of all traffic crashes are alcohol-related.
  • Nearly 600,000 Americans are injured in alcohol-related traffic crashes each year.
  • Someone dies in an alcohol-related traffic crash every 30 minutes. Every two minutes someone is hurt (non-fatally injured) in an alcohol-related accident.
  • Three out of every 10 Americans face the possibility of being directly involved in an alcohol-related traffic crash during their lifetime. 

Education promotes prevention.

According to USA Today, more than 1.5 million people were arrested in the United States last year for driving drunk and at least that many are estimated to have driven under the influence of drugs.

Drunk and drugged drivers continue to drive our roads and highways, causing more than 17,000 Americans to die each year.  According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, impaired driving will affect one in three Americans during their lifetimes.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), between 2002 and 2005, West Virginia used a high-visibility enforcement program and cut alcohol related deaths by 18% and the numbers of drivers who tested over the .08 BAC dropped 30%.  This program included increased monitoring and enforcement in conjunction with paid advertisements on radio, TV, and billboards to increase public awareness of the dangers of DUI.  Many states have dropped high-visibility enforcement programs because of a lack of funding, but NHTSA continues to encourage states to maintain high-visibility programs to decrease the number of DUI related crashes, injuries, and deaths.

West Virginia University presently uses an on-line alcohol awareness program for all in-coming freshmen and transfer students.  The students must complete the program by certain dates or must pay a fifty-dollar penalty for missed deadlines.  Morgantown public high schools also have DUI awareness programs before prom activities in the spring to increase student awareness of the hazards and legal ramifications of driving under the influence of drugs and alcohol. 

The National Health Information Center has designated April 1 – 30, 2012 as  Alcohol Awareness Month  (National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, Inc.) 

Sergeant May, we salute you. 

Submitted by the Robinette Legal Group, PLLC, West Virginia Workplace Injury/Wrongful Death Lawyers. Free books — Call us today: 304-216-6695 or 304-594-1800 for your free copy of Righting the Wrong: WV Serious Injury Guide; Collision Care: WV Auto Injury Guide; or Beside Still Waters: WV Fatal Injury Guide for Families.

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Record Number of Car Accidents in Star City, WV

Accidents in Star City, WV at an All-time High

Accidents in Star City, WV at an All-time High

Car accidents on the stretch between the Coliseum and Star City bridge are occurring every day in Morgantown.  Texting, talking, and other distractions have made this boulevard one of the most likely places in Morgantown to be involved in an accident, according to Police Chief Vic Propst.  Traffic is only expected to increase once the new Sheetz gas station on the Star City side of the bridge is completed.  New traffic signals to be installed will serve to regulate and slow down traffic, but in the meantime, please be careful.

Carbon Monoxide Poisoning: New Legislation Needed in West Virginia

Should Carbon Monoxide Detectors Be Required in all Hotels, Businesses, and Rental Housing Units?

A task force met in Kanawha County, WV on Friday, February 3rd.  Representatives from the health department, fire department, and emergency services, and code enforcement met to discuss how to prevent such deaths and poisonings from occurring in the future.

Approval by the state legislature is needed to enact an ordinance requiring carbon monoxide detectors in public buildings.  This could take a year or more, so for now, the best that can be done is to educate the public and business owners about the dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning.

The task force plans to meet again Tuesday and have invited leaders from the State Fire Marshall’s office and hospital representatives.

A Rhode Island man died in his sleep on Tuesday, January 31, 2012, when his hotel room at the Holiday Inn and Suites in South Charleston, WV filled with carbon monoxide.  Another man is still in critical condition, and at least a dozen more guests are being treated for carbon monoxide poisoning.

A swimming pool heater at the hotel was the source of the deadly carbon monoxide leak.  The heater pump was fed by a pipe that went all the way through the building.  The hotel had no carbon monoxide detectors.

Carbon Monoxide:  the Silent Killer

Often called “the silent killer,” Carbon monoxide (CO) is an invisible and odorless gas that is produced when burning any fuel, such as gasoline, propane, natural gas, oil, wood, and charcoal.  Carbon monoxide causes illness by decreasing the amount of oxygen present in a person’s body.

CO poisoning can often be mistaken for other illnesses, such as the flu.  The most common symptoms include headache, fatigue, nausea, vomiting, and confusion.  A sleeping or intoxicated person may not experience symptoms before they lose consciousness or die.  Often, other people in the place of business or household will exhibit similar symptoms.

In addition to death, carbon monoxide can cause severe learning disability, memory loss, and personality changes.  Young children are especially vulnerable to the effects of carbon monoxide and may show symptoms sooner than a healthy adult. Because of their smaller bodies, children process CO differently than adults and may be more severely affected by it.

Recent Carbon Monoxide Poisoning Cases

Carbon monoxide poisoning happens in hotels, rental units, and businesses every year.  Between 1989 and 2004, 68 incidents of CO poisoning occurring at hotels, motels, and resorts were identified, resulting in 772 accidentally poisoned: 711 guests, 41 employees or owners, and 20 rescue personnel. Of those poisoned, 27 died.

The following are some of the most recent cases of carbon monoxide poisoning:

  • January 26, 2012:  A leak from a forklift Thursday led to 13 employees at Chippewa Bi Products in Wisconsin being sent to the hospital for carbon monoxide poisoning.  Propane forklifts were being used in the Chippewa Bi Products building where the employees got ill, and authorities believe one of the forklifts had a mechanical problem and released the toxic carbon monoxide fumes.  Chippewa Bi Products said that it has carbon monoxide detectors, and that one did go off at the time of the incident.
  • January 3, 2012:  A Target store in Keene, N.H., had to be evacuated Tuesday due to high levels of carbon monoxide, and 17 employees were taken to local hospitals.  The source of the carbon monoxide was a gas-powered cutting machine that was in the Target in the morning cutting out pieces of its concrete floor as part of a renovation, according to the Keene Sentinel. Fire authorities believe that the store wasn’t properly ventilated when that work was done, or when workers took out the concrete slabs with a tractor.
  • December 30, 2011:  The Hilton Garden Inn in Green Bay, Wisconsin had a carbon monoxide leak that led to about 16 people going to the hospital. There was no mention in the report of whether the hotel had carbon monoxide detectors as required by Wisconsin state law.  High levels of carbon monoxide were found in a swimming pool area, a workout room, a mechanical room, a stairway and several restrooms.
  • September 20, 2011:  In Morgantown, WV one person was killed and several others hospitalized after carbon monoxide poisoning occurred in the home they were renting.
  • July 25, 2011: Twelve people staying at a Norman, Oklahoma hotel were taken to the hospital after breathing toxic levels of carbon monoxide.  Firefighters arrived at the Sooner Legends Inn and Suites after a 3-year-old child became ill and was taken to the hospital. The firefighters detected carbon monoxide and evacuated the hotel.  The cause of the carbon monoxide leak was determined to be from a damaged, leaking ventilation pipe running from the boiler to the roof.

Business Owners Are Responsible to Prevent Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Hotel owners and landlords have a heightened responsibility to ensure that their facilities are safe for guests and tenants.  Inspections and proper maintenance of equipment and heating units and the installation and maintenance of detectors are common-sense preventative measures one would expect any building owner to have in place.  Unfortunately, West Virginia does not require all hotels and rental homes to have carbon monoxide detectors.  Further legislation is needed to ensure that employees, guests, patrons and renters are kept safe from carbon monoxide poisoning which often results in catastrophic injuries and deaths.

Update: 

On April 5, 2012, Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin signed Senate Bill 597.  The bill, effective Sept. 1, requires carbon monoxide detectors to be installed in all hotels, motels, apartment buildings, boarding houses, dormitories, long-term care facilities, adult or child care facilities, assisted living facilities, along with one- and two-family dwellings intended to be rented or leased.  The family of the carbon monoxide victim who died in a Charleston, WV hotel earlier in 2012 was present at the signing and expressed gratitude that the state of West Virginia has taken measures to prevent other families from experiencing this same sorrow in the future.

If you or  loved one has been a victim of carbon monoxide poisoning, please contact us the Robinette Legal Group, PLLC at http://www.robinettelaw.com

Carbon Monoxide Leak Kills Hotel Guest in South Charleston, WV; Injures at Least a Dozen More

A Rhode Island man died in his sleep on Tuesday, January 31, 2012, when his hotel room at the Holiday Inn and Suites in South Charleston, WV filled with carbon monoxide.  Another man is still in critical condition, and at least a dozen more guests are being treated for carbon monoxide poisoning.

A  swimming pool heater at the hotel was the source of the deadly carbon monoxide leak.  The heater pump was fed by a pipe that went all the way through the building.  The hotel had no carbon monoxide detectors.

Often called “the silent killer,” Carbon monoxide is an invisible and odorless gas that is produced when burning any fuel, such as gasoline, propane, natural gas, oil, wood, and charcoal.  Carbon monoxide causes illness by decreasing the amount of oxygen present in a person’s body.

CO poisoning can often be mistaken for other illnesses, such as the flu.  The most common symptoms include headache, fatigue, nausea, vomiting, and confusion.  In severe cases, the person may lose consciousness or die.  Often, other people in the place of business or household will exhibit similar symptoms.

In addition to death, carbon monoxide can cause severe learning disability, memory loss, and personality changes.

Hotel owners and landlords have the highest degree of responsibility to ensure that their facilities are safe for guests and tenants.  Inspections and proper maintenance of equipment and heating units and the installation and maintenance of detectors are common-sense preventative measures one would expect any building owner to have in place.

If you or a loved one has experienced the devastating effects of carbon monoxide poisoning due to someone else’s negligence, please contact us at the Robinette Legal Group, PLLC for help at http://www.robinettelaw.com or (304)594-1800.

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