Wilmington man overdosed behind wheel, pleads guilty to drug charges

29-year-old Matthew Cox was charged with one count of habitual impaired driving. (Photo: DA Office)

WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — A Wilmington man pleaded guilty after he passed out at the wheel because of an heroin overdose while driving down Carolina Beach Road.

Matthew Cox, 29, was charged with one count of Habitual Impaired Driving, one count of Possession of Heroin, and one count of Assault on an Emergency Official. He was sentenced to at least 20 months in prison.

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Cox was found by sheriff’s deputies on the 5000 block of Carolina Beach Road on February 8 after he passed out in the center turn lane while operating a 2009 Ford Edge.

Deputies say it was quickly determined that Cox was suffering from a heroin overdose. He was revived by EMS using naloxone and then admitted to officers that he had recently smoked marijuana and snorted heroin.

Cox was also found to be in possession of 10 bindles of heroin at the time of the offense. Previously, Cox had been convicted of driving while impaired in New Hanover County in 2009, 2010, and 2013.

“All impaired drivers are dangerous to our community, but I am not sure anything is more dangerous to the drivers of North Carolina than an individual who is experiencing a heroin overdose while operating a motor vehicle.” Assistant District Attorney Brad Matthews said. “Our office and this community have seen first-hand the tragedy that results from both impaired driving generally and specifically driving while under the influence of heroin. It is important that these drivers, especially repeat offenders such as this defendant, are prosecuted vigilantly and aggressively,” District Attorney Ben David said.

Deputies with the New Hanover County Sheriff’s Office and State Troopers with the North Carolina Highway Patrol investigated the case.