Memories of Lauren Sausville are clustered around a cross on Colchester Road. Friends of the Fairfax High School junior have left flowers, photos and souvenirs and some have inscribed sayings and nicknames onto the cross. Letters, laminated against the elements, testifying to how much the writer misses the 16-year-old, have been placed at the crash site in Fairfax Station.
Lauren died in a car crash on Friday, Dec. 3, at 11:04 p.m. She is the latest in a series of teens who have died in car crashes across the Washington, D.C. region this fall. Over the course of 2004, 11 traffic fatalities have involved people aged 16-21 in Fairfax County, said Capt. Jesse Bowman of Fairfax County Police. Eight of those have involved females, and four of those eight have been 16 years old.
"This mirrors the national trend of young females 16-21 involved in traffic fatalities," Bowman said.
This is also the 57th traffic fatality in Fairfax County this year. Last year, the county had 62 traffic fatalities, said Sgt. Richard Perez of Fairfax County Police.
To put that number into perspective, Bowman said the county has had nine homicides this year.
GRIEF COUNSELORS were at Fairfax High on Monday, as they typically are in such situations, and students at the school have decorated Lauren's locker, said principal Linda Thomson. She described the sight as "very sobering."
On Friday night, Lauren had been at a gathering in a local apartment where there was no alcohol, said Sgt. Pat Wimberly of the police Crash Reconstruction Unit.
Lauren, said Wimberly, waited outside a local convenience store for an adult to help her. "She solicited it from an adult," he said. "The alcohol was brought to the location by Lauren." Police believe that Lauren was able to purchase two cases of beer.
"There's an adult out there that can look themselves in the mirror and pat themselves on the back because they have done the community a great disservice," said Bowman.
Lauren was following a car driven by a 17-year old boy who lives in the Clifton area to a house in that area. She was driving south on Colchester Road near its intersection with Fairfax Station Road. The road in that area is narrow, winding and hilly, which results in low visibility. The area is heavily wooded and sparsely populated. Although few streetlights illuminate the road, one is located near the intersection.
The intersection, however, does not register among the most dangerous in the county, said Perez
THE BOY, who was driving a 1994 Mazda MX-6, had stopped at a stop sign at the intersection. As Sausville was following the boy, she lost control of her vehicle, a 1999 Ford Explorer. “It hit the embankment, and the SUV flipped,” said Mary Mulrenan, spokesperson for the Fairfax County Police.
Lauren's car skidded along the road before hitting the rear of the other car. One six-pack of beer was found in the car. Lauren was pronounced dead on the scene.
Police have determined that speed was a factor in the crash, but police have yet to determine Lauren's blood Alcohol level.
The 17 year old's blood alcohol level was .08, which is above the legal limit for an adult. As a minor, his level cannot exceed .02, said Wimberly.
Police have charged the boy with driving while intoxicated, and he faces a loss of his driver's license and possible jail time for the class 1 misdemeanor. "His parents are going to need a wheelbarrow to make his insurance payments," Wimberly said.
Police are engaged in a variety of education and enforcement campaigns to try to combat drunken driving and educate younger drivers, Perez said. "Inexperienced drivers unfamiliar with the terrain and unfamiliar with crisis maneuvers can result in a fatal crash," he said.
The police have youth driver classes which teach teens, "how to safely avoid becoming a crash statistic," Perez said.
Additionally, they have begun "sting operations" which target the business community. Underage police cadets go to various establishments throughout the county and try to buy alcohol.
They also have stepped up alcohol enforcement patrols and sobriety checkpoints. "Through many fronts, we try and combat the situation," Perez said.
Connection Community Editor Mike O'Connell contributed to this story.