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With the holiday season come parties, and with parties often comes alcohol. What appears to be the final chapter in the story of a terrible accident serves as a reminder that responsibility should also be a component of parties.

Theresa Bruckner, 52, of Browns Summit, North Carolina, near Greensboro, pleaded no contest this week to three counts of aiding and abetting a person less than 21 years of age in possessing an alcoholic beverage. She was charged in July 2010.

The wreck, which took place in February 2010, killed three people, two of them teenagers. The driver, Amanda Sperduti, age 20 at the time, survived. She is serving 7 to 12 years in prison for aggravated felony death by motor vehicle.

Photo taken at the scene

The car was ripped in half when it hit a tree.

Sperduti and her three passengers had left Bruckner’s home and were going from one party to another. Sperduti’s blood-alcohol level was .20 – more than twice the legal limit.

She rounded a bend in the road, driving 90 miles per hour in a 45 zone. She ran off the road, struck a street sign and then a tree. The Acura the four were riding in was torn in half; the three victims pronounced dead at the scene.

In Bruckner’s plea deal, she was given a 45-day jail sentence, placed on probation and ordered to perform 200 hours of community service. Also as part of the deal, the same charges against her son, Kyle Bruckner, who was 22 at the time he was charged, were dropped.

The sentence seems mild for actions which led to the deaths of three people, especially considering that a 20-year-old – and likely a very immature one – was sentenced to up to 12 years.

It’s tempting to some adults to let the young folk join in the partaking of spirits at parties. After all, everyone is having such a good time. What is a little drink going to hurt? But a little can lead to a lot. And a lot leads to bad decisions and reckless behavior. Alcohol is best kept absent from any party attended by young people.

Young, inexperienced drivers are at a higher risk for crashes, and wrecks are the leading cause of death for teens in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Adding alcohol to that mix is terribly irresponsible.

But the bottom line is, giving alcohol to people under 21 is illegal. Offenders can be prosecuted criminally, although the penalties for it don’t have enough teeth. And under some circumstances an offender can also be exposed to civil liability for serving alcohol to someone who is obviously inebriated. The civil liability of the offense may actually be a more powerful deterrent to the crime of providing alcohol to underage young people who then go out and injure someone, or worse.

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