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January crash leads to "backseat driver" DUI charge

In Virginia, it's not just those behind the wheel that can be charged with endangering others on the road. An alleged drunk driving accident that occurred last month in Bedford County involves a passenger being arrested for driving under the influence. While traveling in a car with four other people, a 23-year-old woman from Roanoke allegedly grabbed the wheel and caused the car to crash, according to another passenger.

All five individuals were later hospitalized when the vehicle flipped over near Virginia 24. The passenger now faces a charge of reckless driving and misdemeanor DUI. While fortunately no deaths occurred in this incident, several people in a car, with any one of them drunk, can pose a massive hazard. An intoxicated person, even if they are not technically in the driver's seat, can still cause a car to careen out of control. A drunk person's poor judgment and impaired motor skills can lead to acting out, harming the car itself, or distracting the driver.

A Virginia Court of Appeals upheld a guilty verdict ten years ago in the case of a man who drunkenly took hold of the wheel of someone else's car. Charges of DUI for passengers are rare, but not entirely impossible in Virginia. According to one assistant county prosecutor, if an intoxicated person grabs hold of a steering while, they can and will be prosecuted for DUI.

In such instances, impaired steering of a car can easily cause crossing lanes or even a head-on collision. Often, as in the recent Virginia case, there are other passengers in the car, who are just as prone to injury as other motorists on the road. Injured passengers can enlist the aid of an attorney to seek compensation from the drunk individual, especially if police charge that person with a DUI.

Source: The Delmarva Daily Times, "VA Traffic: backseat driver faces DUI charge," AP, Feb. 21, 2013

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