DWI fatalities on the rise in Mecklenburg County

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - State troopers with the North Carolina Highway Patrol say they're seeing more fatalities in crashes where alcohol was a factor.

"There's more speed involved when you're on the interstate," said Trooper Ray Pierce. "The vehicles are traveling at a higher rate of speed so the crashes are severe when we have those collisions."

According to Highway Patrol, Mecklenburg County saw 23 fatalities where alcohol was a factor. In 2015, there were 13 deaths in alcohol-related crashes.

So far this year, there have been more deaths in DWI crashes. The latest collision happened early Sunday morning.

Troopers say they received two calls for a vehicle - either stopped or slowing down - in the center lane on I-77 south near LaSalle Street.

Highway Patrol says a trooper was on the way but then a third call came in to report a nasty collision. The vehicle troopers were responding to reports of had been hit.

The driver of that car, Phillip Hayes Jr, and his passenger, Jessica Picatte, died at the scene.

Troopers say the man who hit them was intoxicated. Roy Mewborn has been charged with two counts of felony death by vehicle and DWI.

Troopers say they're still trying to figure out why the car stopped in the middle of the highway.

Besides the fatal DWI crash Sunday, troopers are also investigating two cases of wrong way drivers on 485 inner loop near West Boulevard hat happened in January where everyone involved died. Investigators are waiting for toxicology results to see if alcohol was also a factor.

Highway Patrol statistics also show there were fewer DWI arrests in Mecklenburg County last year.

Troopers say in 2016, there were 501 arrests but in 2017 that number dropped to 432.

Troopers say the decrease in DWI arrests aren't because there are less drunk drivers... it might be more about an increase in calls for service.

"If your calls for service are up, unfortunately your enforcement times are down so that could be the reason for the drop in the driving while impaired charges" said Trooper Pierce.

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