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Mother, son share lessons of drunken driving tragedy


 Pam Stucky looks at picture of her late husband, Dean Stucky, with her son Phillip on a website they created to educate students and others on the dangers of drunken driving.
Andrew Shurtleff/ASSOCIATED PRESS
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Date published: 12/9/2012

BY K. BURNELL EVANS

The Daily Progress

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va.

--Pam Stucky measures her son's age by the number of years that have passed since her husband was killed.

Phillip Stucky is 22. Now a student at the University of Virginia, he was 6 weeks old when a Naval Reserve officer with a blood-alcohol content of 0.23 percent swerved a vehicle across a double yellow line, plowing head-on into Dean Stucky's pickup truck.

Dean Stucky died quickly--mercifully--says the family of two, who have died a thousand small deaths since Sept. 9, 1990.

"I had to be a mother and father to my son, because of the choice that he made," Pam Stucky said of the driver, who served an 18-month sentence for manslaughter. "I wouldn't wish that pain on anyone."

The pair has brought their story to anyone who would listen for the past 21 years. After decades of fine-tuning and five years of brainstorming, the Stuckys have created a program geared toward young adults on the brink of entering the drunken driving danger zone--those ages 21 to 24.

Drunken drivers in their early 20s consistently account for roughly one-third of all fatal alcohol-related wrecks--more than any other age group--according to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration data.

"Right now [college students] are forming habits and we want to make sure they are forming the right ones," Pam Stucky said. "I don't think people realize how much danger they are putting everyone around them in when they make the wrong choice."

More wrong choices are made in the last two weeks of December through New Year's Eve than at any other time of the year, according to federal safety data and advocacy group Mothers Against Drunk Driving.

MADD found that impaired driving accounted for 48 percent of highway deaths during the 2010 New Year's holiday, the latest year for which data is available.

The Stuckys are hoping to reach young drivers ahead of the holidays by bringing their program, The Gift, to Grounds on Dec. 15. Harsh reality and a side of snacks will be served from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. in Newcomb Hall, Room 481.

"I want to be graphic, I want to be real, I want to shock," Pam Stucky said.


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