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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Costly choice: Athlete talks DUI

Costly choice: Athlete talks DUI

It’s been said time and again — learn from your mistakes. But this time, learn from hers.

Then 21-year-old Sarah Panzau survived a 2003 accident that would take her arm and almost her life. Her blood alcohol content was more than four times the legal limit.

While she could no longer return to her previous life as a Southwestern Illinois College All-American volleyball player, Panzau chose to direct her efforts to fight against the dangers of drunk driving that led to her life-altering rollover automobile accident.

Panzau will be at the UA’s Gallagher Theater tonight at 6 to tell her story to anyone who will listen.

Arizona head rugby coach David Sitton is so passionate about the weight of her message that he is requiring all returning rugby athletes to attend and highly encourages anyone hoping to join the team.

“”One of the things we tell the rugby guys, and I’ve been like this for a long time,”” Sitton said, “”if you’re at a party with a friend and he wants to drive drunk, then you go ahead and break his jaw.

“”I mean, that’s just how we take care of things, at least on the rugby team,”” he added. “”That’s just how we do it. We don’t advocate that everyone does it, but I’d rather have a broken jaw in my son than have him kill somebody or get killed.””

Panzau’s appearance has been in the works with Assistant Director of Campus Recreation Mary O’Mahoney and Golden Eagle Distributors — one of the Arizona rugby sponsors — for quite some time, and everyone involved has high hopes that Panzau’s message will hit home with UA students.

“”We sent info out to all the clubs and coaches, (Associated Students of the University of Arizona) and the Dean’s Office. We have posters all over the Rec Center and on campus. We’re hoping to fill the whole auditorium with people that want to hear,”” O’Mahoney said. “”With a positive message like this our whole department is behind the whole idea. So any students we can affect with this would be awesome.””

Panzau promises her message will make a lasting impression and Sitton has taken the topic very seriously.

“”We know for a fact that people who are drunk should not operate motor vehicles,”” Sitton said. “”This is a universal truth — we don’t have to debate it. We just have to remind everybody about it every day.

“”There’s nothing moral or immoral about this,”” he continued. “”It’s just a fact. The purpose of this is just to keep people alive.””

Binge drinking has always been an issue on college campuses nationwide, but the common theme is to stay away from the wheel.

“”One of the points that (Panzau) makes is understanding, by definition, that you do not make good decisions when you’re drunk. We need to understand that going into it,”” Sitton said.

Drunk driving has become a somewhat socially acceptable occurrence, but as Sitton said, Panzau brings to light some of the lesser-acknowledged costs of making the decision to drink and drive.

“”The police effort alone — and this is where I feel very confident about her message — the police effort alone is a minimum $10,000 fine for drinking and driving,”” Sitton said. “”I bet if I asked 100 guys tomorrow night at the presentation if they were willing to lose $10,000 later that night, they’d all say no. And then, if I went on to ask them if they wanted to take the chance of possibly accidentally killing someone or themselves with an automobile, of course they’ll say no.

“”And unless you have a good group of friends willing to beat some sense into you,”” he added, “”then you are taking a shot at losing $10,000, your car, someone’s life or your life.””

Sitton said nobody ever plans to get behind the wheel and change their life or the life of another human forever, but it still happens. The heart of Panzau’s message lies in planning against it happening and taking the appropriate steps to ensure that people don’t make the same mistake as she did.

“”This wasn’t supposed to happen to me, this wasn’t supposed to be my life story,”” Panzau said on her Web site. “”I hope today in hearing my story and seeing my pictures and what I’ve been through, you will see that it’s simply not worth it.””

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