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Fairfax 16-Year-Old Killed in SUV Crash

Police Say New Driver Was Speeding

By Tom Jackman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, December 5, 2004; Page C03

A 16-year-old Fairfax girl was killed Friday night when her sport-utility vehicle flipped on its side and skidded into the back of a stopped car driven by a friend, Fairfax County police said yesterday.

Lauren Sausville, a junior at Fairfax High School, was the 17th teenager killed in a traffic accident in the Washington area since mid-September.

Police said the driver of the car she was following, a 17-year-old Fairfax student, had been drinking, and he was charged with driving while intoxicated.

Police were still investigating where Sausville and her friend had been Friday night before they reached Colchester Road and Fairfax Station Road in a sparsely populated area of southern Fairfax. Sausville was driving a 1999 Ford Explorer, and her friend, also a Fairfax High student, was driving a 1994 Mazda MX6. There were no passengers in either car.

Police said the 17-year-old was heading south on Colchester Road just after 11 p.m. and stopped the Mazda at the stop sign for Fairfax Station Road. He then watched the accident unfold in his rearview mirror. Police spokeswoman Mary Ann Jennings said the youth reported watching the Explorer run off the road into an embankment, flip onto the driver's side and skid down the road toward him.

As the Explorer got closer, the youth tried to pull away, Jennings said, but the Explorer was sliding too fast and slammed into the right rear of the Mazda. The impact crushed the roof of the Explorer and drove Sausville back into the rear passenger compartment.

Sausville was pronounced dead at the scene. Police said it took about 90 minutes to extricate her body from the wreckage.

Police estimate that Sausville was driving 55 to 60 mph on Colchester Road, which has a speed limit of 35 mph, Lt. Dan Townsend of the police traffic unit said. He said she had been driving for four months.

"This crash had all the variables," Townsend said. "There were no lights on that road, you've got an unstable vehicle, an inexperienced driver and an overcorrection with the steering wheel."

A fatal crash involving teenagers on Interstate 95 in October also involved an SUV and an overcorrection. In that accident, a 16-year-old driving a Cadillac Escalade started to change lanes, realized that another car was already there and swerved back to her original lane, causing the Escalade to topple, police said. A passenger on the side where the Escalade landed, 17-year-old Laura Lynam of Alexandria, was killed.

The youth driving the Mazda was not seriously hurt, though the rear of the car was crumpled and the rear window shattered. While he was talking to police, Jennings said, officers suspected he was intoxicated. His blood-alcohol content was later measured at .08, Jennings said, which is the state's defined level for intoxication, and he was arrested. His name was not released because he is a juvenile.

Jennings said Sausville's blood-alcohol level was not available, pending the completion of toxicology tests.

In an attempt to deter drunken driving during the holiday season, Fairfax police on Wednesday launched their Safe December program with a roving squad of officers focused on arresting impaired motorists. In the first three nights of the program, the officers made 28 DWI arrests in the county.

Sausville's family was not available to comment yesterday.

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