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  ILCC Industry Education Division



Crash victim speaks to teens about underage drinking consequences after near fatal wreck

DATE: April 28, 2008
CONTACT: Ted Penesis

CHICAGO—As Alcohol Awareness Month draws to a close, the Illinois Liquor Control Commission's Don't Be Sorry program will bring the consequences of underage drinking to life tonight and tomorrow in the Peoria and Quad Cities areas. Don’t Be Sorry is an educational campaign designed to teach students, parents, and liquor retailers about the dangers of underage drinking.

The topic of discussion is timely. According to data released by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 58 percent of traffic fatalities during the prom and graduation period were alcohol-related, compared to 41 percent during the rest of the year.

Featured at the meeting will be traffic safety consultant Marti Belluschi, who along with her father, were hit head-on by a drunk driver who was going 90 miles an hour. She and her father were seriously injured in the crash, with Marti near death. Last month, forty years ago to the day of the crash, Ms. Belluschi met for the first time the two responding police officers who saved her life.

Don’t Be Sorry is an educational campaign designed to teach students, parents, and liquor retailers about the dangers of underage drinking. The campaign features educators and guest speakers who travel the state to share their personal experiences and the consequences of underage drinking. Belluschi will be joined by Ted Penesis, the ILCC's Industry Education Manager, as they present information and distribute materials about the health and legal consequences of underage drinking.

Recent State of Illinois efforts

During the past year, Governor Rod R. Blagojevich signed two strong pieces of legislation aimed at curbing underage drinking. The Governor signed SB 1625 into law, preventing the advertisement and promotion of flavored alcoholic beverages, or alcopops, to children. Alcopops are alcoholic beverages blended with fruit juice, lemonade or other flavorings. Examples include ‘hard lemonade’ and ‘twisted tea.’ The new law fines companies that promote alcopops to minors $500.00 for the first offense and $1,000.00 for a second offense.

In addition, Gov. Blagojevich signed Senate Bill 158 that underscores adults’ responsibility for preventing underage drinking. This legislation increases the penalty to 1-3 years in prison and up to a $25,000.00 fine for parents who knowingly allow underage alcohol consumption in their home and the drinking leads to serious injuries or death. This law was passed, in part, as a response to the Liquor Commission’s TrAIL (Tracking Alcohol in IL) Program, where investigators track alcohol purchases when underage drinking leads in injury or death. During its first year, ILCC agents were called in to investigate 28 incidents which resulted in 19 fatalities and 45 injuries. In several of these incidents, parents were suspected, charged, and in one case, ultimately sentenced to jail time for providing the alcohol.

Marti Belluschi

Marti has worked on traffic safety issues, particularly impaired driving prevention, since 1985 when she volunteered to help with a new Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) organization in Illinois. Currently, she participates in a variety of traffic safety programs and presentations including work with the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT), the Governor’s Alcohol Abuse Task Force, the Alliance Against Intoxicated Motorists (AAIM), the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, the Illinois Judges Association, the Illinois State Bar Association, the Illinois Law Enforcement Training and Standards Board, schools and fire departments.

Ted Penesis

A communications professional for over twenty years, Ted Penesis has served as Industry Education Manager for the Illinois Liquor Control Commission since April 2005, where he supervises the state's tobacco enforcement operation, alcohol server training program, and underage drinking awareness efforts. He previously worked for a variety of local governmental institutions in the Chicago area including municipalities, school districts, and recreational agencies, and as a TV Producer/Director for an NBC affiliate in Rockford.

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