DUI Conference Teaches Area Teens True Consequences

Article excerpt

Byline: Eileen O. Daday Daily Herald Correspondent

Fremd High School sophomore, John Singleton, 15, of Hoffman Estates had heard the warnings before: don't drink and drive. Until Wednesday he had never heard about the consequences in such graphic detail.

Testimony from a 28-year-old felon, Pete Watson of Mokena, convicted of reckless homicide after a 17-year old passenger was killed when he decided to drink and drive, made him shudder.

"When he described going to prison, that scared me," Singleton said. "I never want to go there."

Singleton was one of 162 Northwest suburban teens from 11 area high schools to attend a DUI Awareness Conference at the Rolling Meadows courthouse.

The students, accompanied by 23 faculty advisers and various court representatives, filled the lower level multi-purpose room. Most were stunned by the first-hand descriptions, and many wiped away tears.

"I want to go home and give my mom a hug and give my friends a hug," said St. Viator High School junior Julie Vadnal, 17, of Des Plaines.

"When they started talking about homecoming and putting the corsage in her casket, it suddenly hit home," added St. Viator senior Shannon Hitzeman, 17, of Barrington. "It could have been any of us."

Judges assigned to the Third Municipal District planned the conference to address area teens before prom season in May, which they say is now the second deadliest month for alcohol-related crashes.

"We see it all the time, more and more teens charged with reckless homicide arising from DUIs," said presiding Judge Joseph Urso. "Their lives are ruined. We want to make them realize the consequences before they get in trouble."

Students acknowledged that the pressure to drink, particularly after dances, is all around them. …