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Tests show alcohol, drugs present in two Auburn-area road deaths

By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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Two Placer County motorists who lost their lives within days of each other in single-vehicle crashes had something else in common. Toxicology tests taken after Newcastle’s Sandra Hauser and Dustin “Bo” Dean of Foresthill died found evidence of alcohol and illegal drugs in both their bloodstreams. Sandra Hauser, who had turned 25 the day before, died in the early morning of March 11 after a wrong-way drive on Interstate 80. She crashed into a rock outcropping near Auburn’s Maple Street exit after turning her vehicle around. Hauser tested positive for alcohol and marijuana. Her blood-alcohol level was 0.22 – more than twice the legal limit for driving in the state. Motorcycle crash victim Dustin “Bo” Dean died March 16 after crashing into a parked trailer. The 28-year-old Foresthill resident tested positive for alcohol and methamphetamine, the Placer County Coroner’s Office said this week. Dean’s test showed he had been drinking alcohol but his toxicology report showed a 0.05 percent level – lower than the 0.08 percent reading that normally triggers a driving-under-the-influence charge. Both deaths resulted in a strong emotional outpouring in the community. Hauser, a popular waitress who had worked at several Auburn-area restaurants, now has a non-profit named for her that plans to raise money for scrip that drinking establishments could provide over-imbibers to supply transportation and prevent them from driving drunk. Dean’s funeral service in Foresthill attracted dozens of friends and family members who remembered a man who was quick with a smile and a joke while living to ride his motorcycle, hunt and shoot. Silas Miers, law-enforcement specialist for Mothers Against Drunk Driving California, said that Hauser’s 0.22 reading was well over the 0.15 percent reading that state law adds extra punishment for in court cases involving drunken-driving offenses. “A 0.22 is pretty drunk,” Miers said. “Anything above a 0.2 is getting into the realm of being very intoxicated and being a significant danger to the public.” An average human is approaching unconsciousness at 0.3 percent and fatalities from alcohol poisoning can also start at that level, he said. Mixing drugs and alcohol – legal or illicit – is going to cause problems, Miers said. “And driving after that is a horrible idea,” he said. “It can be a very dangerous combination.” Both Hauser and Dean had the presence of other drugs in their system but tests give no indication how long and what strength they were at when the accidents occurred. Casey Hauser said Tuesday that her late sister was not a medicinal marijuana patient. She said that her sister had been out with their parents for part of the night before her death and because of that, she didn’t feel her sister was high on marijuana at the time of the crash. Hauser noted that marijuana can stay present in the bloodstream for a lengthy period after use. Casey Hauser added that an examination has turned up evidence that her sister’s Acura Integra had a high-speed blowout on a front tire. “But I’m not making excuses,” she added. MADD was started 30 years in Sacramento after its founder’s daughter was killed by a drunk driver out on bail for another drunk driving offense. While advocating for victims and their families, MADD also recommends a simple drunk-driving avoidance strategy that preaches prevention through proactive behavior. It’s a philosophy that is also behind the fledgling “Sandra’s Safe Ride Home” program, which is targeted for startup in the late summer. “Get a designated driver and ensure that person isn’t going to consume any alcohol,” Miers said. “People just need to make their plan before they go out – and not one where they intend to stop drinking two hours before going home. Be it staying with a friend or walking home, they need to ensure their safety.” California Highway Patrol statistics show 1,355 people killed in 2008 around the state in accidents attributed to driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. That’s down 9 percent from the year before. “But even one death is too many,” Miers said.