A 30-year-old driver accused of killing two people in a wrong-way crash on Sunday at Tampa International Airport made his first court appearance Monday morning.
A judge set the man’s bond at $150,000. He faces two charges of DUI manslaughter and two charges of vehicular homicide.
The man was allegedly intoxicated as he was trying to get on to the interstate going the wrong way when he hit another car head on early Sunday, according to the Tampa Police Department.
Police are looking into a potential traffic camera video that may help investigators determine how or why the man was allegedly driving the wrong way, trying to exit the Tampa International Airport on an entrance ramp.
Two men in the car the man hit died at the scene.
According to reports, police tested the man’s breath four times following his arrest. He apparently blew just over the legal limit of point .08 twice, and just below the legal limit twice.
A blood draw was also taken, but results from that are not back.
Each charge the man faces carries a maximum 15 years in prison.
If the man posts bond, he will not be allowed to drink and he will have to wear a scram monitor that can detect alcohol in his system, according to reports.
Each year in the U.S., there are nearly 360 fatalities from wrong-way driving on highways, according to the National Transportation Safety Board. While 360 deaths might not seem like a lot, the seriousness of wrong-way collisions should not be discounted because while they are less frequent than other types of crashes, a wrong-way crash is 12-27 times more likely to be fatal, and often involve more than one fatality.
What is wrong-way driving? Wrong-way driving refers to vehicles traveling against traffic on a highway. This usually occurs when a driver enters the highway via an exit ramp rather than the entrance ramp.
How do wrong-way driving crashes happen? Wrong-way driving occurs most often when a motorist is under the influence of alcohol or drugs and fails to notice “Do Not Enter” signs and other safety precautions. According to a National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) study, the majority of wrong-way drivers are under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Even more shocking is that 59% have a blood-alcohol content (BAC) of 0.15 or more. Sadly, Florida has one of the highest rates of drunk driving crashes in the country, which leads to more wrong-way deaths.
Sarasota is the top city in the state of Florida most at risk for DUI deaths. Sarasota averages 12.2 DUI deaths per 100,000 residents. St. Petersburg averages 4.63 DUI deaths per 100,000 residents. Tampa averages 3.77 DUI deaths per 100,000 residents. All of these cities are well above the national average.
Other factors involved in wrong-way driving crashes include alcohol, drugs, fatigue, inattention, and driving late at night. Age can also play a role – the NTSB reports that drivers over the age of 70 are more likely to cause wrong-way crashes than right-way crashes.
While some wrong-way driving accidents happen on highway entrance ramps, the most serious and deadly wrong-way crashes occur on the highway at high speeds. Due to the fact that many wrong-way drivers are drunk or impaired, they are not only going the wrong way, but they are also likely to be driving recklessly, and may hit vehicles that are trying to avoid them.
If you have been involved in a wrong-way auto accident in Hillsborough, Pinellas, Manatee and Sarasota Counties – including Tampa, Brandon, St. Petersburg and Clearwater, Bradenton and Sarasota, our Tampa Bay Auto Accident Attorneys at Whittel & Melton can help you. We understand that your focus needs to be on recovering from your injuries or the loss of a loved one. We can provide legal assistance to you and your loved ones to help ease the burden of the added stresses that come along with such a tragic accident. You can always arrange a free consultation with us anytime, day or night. If you are unable to come in to one of our offices to meet with us, we are happy to travel to you. We fully understand what you are going and will not require any up front payment for our legal services. We only get paid if your receive financial compensation from an out of court settlement or through a jury trial award.