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Letter: Sticker Shock To Save Lives

To the Editor:

Young people in the City of Alexandria have a number of ways they can obtain alcohol illegally. Sometimes parents purchase beer and other alcohol products for their teens and turn a blind-eye to parties in their homes where alcohol is available. Other times, an older sibling, friend or even a stranger purchases beer, wine coolers or other alcoholic beverages for minors.

The penalties for providing alcoholic beverages to minors are significant. In 2011, a new Virginia law increased the liability for so-called “social hosts” — adults whose actions — or even failure to act — result in underage drinking. However, the real damage falls on our young people whose safety, health and bright futures are put at risk when they drink.

I know firsthand about the risks and the devastating consequences when adults purchase alcohol for underage youth. On Dec. 3, 2004, a 27-year-old man purchased two cases of beer for my 16-year-old step-daughter, Lauren Grace Sausville. She brought the beer to a friend’s house whose father was out of town; an unsupervised, underage party. While there, Lauren drank a few beers and four shots of vodka before leaving for another party. Lauren had only had her driver’s license for three weeks. She was following a friend to the party and going 55 mph on a 35 mph street when she came upon her friend waiting for her at a stop sign. She was an inexperienced driver and very drunk so she over-reacted and hit an embankment and flipped her dad’s SUV onto its side and smashed into the right rear bumper of her friend’s Mazda. The roof crushed in on her and killed her instantly. Lauren’s BAC was a .13 when it was finally taken, as it took over an hour to cut her out of the car. Her spinal fluid was a .17 so she may have been as much as a .20. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) says that a driver with a BAC of .15 or higher is 300 times more likely to be killed in a drunk driving crash. Lauren became a statistic that night. But she is certainly not alone. Too many young people are losing their lives and leaving behind devastated families and friends because of the overwhelming number of adults who just don’t get it.

On Saturday, Oct. 27 at 10 a.m., I will join the Substance Abuse Prevention Coalition of Alexandria, Virginia ABC, the Alexandria Department of Recreation and Cultural Activities, the Alexandria Police Department, Alexandria Sheriff’s Office, and the Alexandria Chamber of Commerce as we launch Alexandria’s 2012 Sticker Shock Campaign.

To help prevent underage drinking, teams of youth and adults will place red STOP stickers on multipacks of beer, wine coolers and other alcohol products in over 60 participating stores throughout the City of Alexandria. Sticker Shock is designed to make adults stop and think twice about purchasing alcohol for minors. Working together, we hope to send a shock wave with the message that’s it’s not OK — and it’s against the law — to purchase or give alcoholic beverages to underage youth. Together, we can change the statistics and save lives.

Debbie Sausville

MADD Volunteer Speaker and Victim Advocate