Many Unanswered Questions After Sparks, NV DUI Crash

Benson & Bingham

Police are still investigating the facts behind a bizarre and troubling automobile accident that took place in Sparks in the northbound lanes of Pyramid Highway. At this stage the full details of the two-vehicle accident – which took place in the early morning hours of Friday, April 12 – remain under investigation and not entirely understood. Based on the preliminary investigations into this week-old car crash, the following facts are established. [1]

A pickup truck, driven by a 31-year-old woman, crashed into the rear of an SUV. Both vehicles were moving in the left-hand travel lane of the northbound side of Pyramid Highway; the crash took place near the intersection of Pyramid Highway and Robert Banks Boulevard, a minor arterial road that connects the major thoroughfare to a residential area. The intersection is a short distance south from a major intersection that acts as the gateway to the largely residential area known as Spanish Springs. [2]

It appears that the SUV slowed – reports are conflicted on this point; some say that the vehicle was stopped, while others say the vehicle had merely slowed – in the left-hand lane when the collision happened. Subsequent reports have indicated that the driver of the SUV was the boyfriend of the driver of the pickup truck, who had been following him. Some reports have indicated that the woman driving the pickup truck “rammed” her boyfriend’s SUV, suggesting an intentional act; it is not yet clear whether there was intent to harm him or whether this was merely an accident. [3]

Without more information, it seems more likely than not that this tragic event was an accident. That is based not just on the fact that the two drivers were in a romantic relationship, but also on the fact that the woman driving the pickup truck appears to have been significantly impaired while she was driving. Law enforcement officials charged the woman driving the pickup truck with a variety of offenses, including driving under the influence causing substantial bodily harm, failing to stop at the scene of an accident and failing to decrease speed or use due care. One report indicates that she faces a total of five charges; an open-container violation is among those reported – that is an offense indirectly related to driving under the influence of alcohol and which criminalizes possession of an open (i.e., not sealed) container of alcohol. [4]

The crash placed the SUV driver in critical condition, but the woman driving the pickup truck was able to continue on after the crash. An off-duty police officer for the Sparks Police Department happened to be traveling on the road at the same time and witnessed the crash; that officer apparently followed the woman driving the pickup truck as she continued northbound and eventually stopped in a residential area a few miles from the crash site. The driver’s failure to stop and render aid after being involved in the serious crash constitutes one of the criminal charges against her. The SUV driver – again, according to early reports the boyfriend of the woman driving the pickup truck who was involved in the accident – was initially transported to the hospital and reported as being in critical condition. Nearly a week later, his condition has been upgraded to serious but he remains under treatment at a northern Nevada hospital. [5]

DUI accidents spike around major holidays, and they are on the whole more common on weekends. This accident occurred in the early morning hours of a Friday; in other words, it was a very-late Thursday night accident. The reason that DUI crashes are so common around festive times is that many social gatherings involve – or in some cases are significantly fueled by – consuming alcohol. An impaired driver is a dangerous driver, since alcohol works along numerous pathways to make tasks like operating a motor vehicle more difficult. A drunk driver has worse muscle coordination, slower thinking, and impaired reasoning. Because of the combination of reduced alertness, slower reaction speed, and worse judgment. [6] Under these conditions, even a small variation from ordinary, ideal driving conditions can trigger a serious accident. Often the cause is an animal darting into the roadway or the presence of debris or some other obstacle. In the case discussed here, the apparent slowing or stopping of the SUV may have surprised the woman driving the pickup truck; because her reaction time was slowed by the apparent over-consumption of alcohol, she was unable to avoid the hazard and struck her boyfriend’s car.

Like traffic fatalities overall, deaths from alcohol-involved motor-vehicle accidents have been on the decline in this country for over 30 years. Total fatalities involving an at-fault drunk driver are down by about half over the last 35 years, and deaths involving drivers under the legal drinking age have fallen by 80 percent. Nonetheless, alcohol is a factor in nearly three in ten fatal car crashes, and nearly 1,000 lives are lost each month in this country when drivers consume more alcohol than the legal limit. [7]

If you suspect that another driver is impaired by drugs or alcohol, the best thing to do is to create space between your vehicle and theirs and contact local law enforcement. [8] If you can do so safely, you – or, better, a passenger – should note the vehicle’s license plate, make, model, and color to aid police in finding the vehicle. It is also helpful to recount the area you are driving in: what road are you on, heading in which direction, near which cross street or mile marker. But the police are capable of detecting an impaired driver with even a vague description; your safety should be paramount. If you are unaware that another driver is impaired until they have struck your vehicle, contact an experienced personal injury attorney for advice about pursuing a legal claim for damages.

[1] https://foxreno.com/news/local/nhp-investigating-serious-injury-crash-caused-by-dui-driver

[2] https://foxreno.com/news/local/nhp-investigating-serious-injury-crash-caused-by-dui-driver

[3] https://www.rgj.com/story/news/crime/2019/04/12/woman-arrested-drunken-hit-and-run-crash/3447407002

[4] https://www.rgj.com/story/news/crime/2019/04/12/woman-arrested-drunken-hit-and-run-crash/3447407002

[5] https://foxreno.com/news/local/nhp-investigating-serious-injury-crash-caused-by-dui-driver

[6] https://www.nhtsa.gov/risky-driving/drunk-driving

[7] https://www.responsibility.org/alcohol-statistics/drunk-driving-statistics/drunk-driving-fatality-statistics

[8] https://www.madd.org/get-help/concerned-citizen/#whattodo

Benson and Bingham