Drunk driving accidents are a serious issue in Virginia and other states across the country.  Especially concerning are drunk driving accidents that involve teenagers, who are not even old enough to drink legally yet they can cause serious car accidents that destroy their own lives and the lives of others.  The statistics are grim.  According to the NHTSA, 28% of 15- to 20-year-old drivers who were killed in motor vehicle crashes in 2005 had been drinking.  What can be done to convince young drivers that driving under the influence of alcohol is dangerous and deadly?


Experts have long tried to find ways to reduce the number of teenagers who drive while intoxicated, and some measures appear to have been successful.  For example, raising the drinking age from 18 to 21 appears to have reduced alcohol related accidents in teens age 18 to 20 by 59%.   However sometimes a more visceral and emotional appeal is needed to really convey the dangers of drunk driving to high-school aged drivers, who often behave as though they are invincible.


That false feeling of invincibility is one attitude that speakers like Sarah Panzau are trying to change as she appears before students in Virginia and elsewhere.  Panzau was seriously injured in a DUI accident in 2003, when she was thrown through the rear windshield of her car.  She had not been wearing a seat belt, and toxicology tests later revealed her BAC to be four times the legal limit.  Doctors initially believed that Panzau had died in the accident, yet she lived and now travels as a speaker.  She hopes that her harrowing tale of survival, surgery, and rehabilitation will encourage young drivers to think twice before they drink and drive.


Panzau is a powerful speaker because she is a living, breathing example of the serious consequences that motorists who drink and drive can experience in an alcohol-induced accident.  She lost an arm and has endured 30 surgeries to correct the damage to her body caused by the accident.  However, in a way Panzau is lucky.  She did not hurt or kill anyone else when she crashed, and her visible self-inflicted injuries give her story an impact that it might not otherwise have.  Her teen audiences may be more moved by her personal, visible tale of suffering than they would be if she were talking about an absent person who had been wrongly killed or injured.


It is admirable that Panzau has dedicated her life to spreading the message among teens that drinking and driving can result in terrible consequences.  If only one teenager thinks twice before getting behind the wheel while intoxicated, then her efforts will have been worthwhile.


If you or someone you love was the accident victim of a drunk driver, please contact the Northern Virginia law firm Dulaney, Lauer & Thomas today.  We will work with you to fight the insurance company and ensure that you receive the compensation and justice you deserve.


Andrew Thomas
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Civil litigation attorney in Virginia and is AV Rated by Martindale-Hubbell.

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