On May 7, 2013, the surviving family of five-year-old Jaclyn Santos-Sacramento settled its lawsuit against teenage driver, Carly Rousso. The young driver who turned 19 last week was accused of losing control of her vehicle and striking the Santos-Sacramento family after inhaling, or “huffing”, the fumes of a computer cleaning product. According to authorities, Rousso’s vehicle swerved across several lanes of downtown Chicago traffic before it jumped onto a busy sidewalk and ran over a woman and her three children. A canister of the cleaning product was found inside Rousso’s vehicle upon being searched at the scene.
Inhaling the fumes of common cleaning products to get high, also known as “huffing”, is disturbingly prevalent among young Americans, a class whose driving inexperience already places them at higher risk for auto-related injuries and deaths. According to the Alliance for Consumer Education, 2.6 million Americans between the ages of 12 to 17 use an inhalant to get high each year.
Following the collision, Jaclyn Santos-Sacramento was rushed to a nearby hospital where she was pronounced dead only a couple hours later. Jaclyn’s mother and two brothers, then 2 and 4 years-old, were also treated for serious injuries sustained after being run over.
19 year-old Rousso has settled the lawsuit brought by the Santos-Sacramento family, which included allegations of wrongful death, negligence and negligent infliction of emotional distress. In the coming weeks, Rousso will face a criminal trial where she may be convicted and confined up to 26 years in prison.
This case is a tragic reminder of how abruptly drug and alcohol-related car accidents can destroy the lives of individuals and their surviving family members. Rousso’s fate should also serve as a sobering lesson to young drivers who too often fail to respect the magnitude of risk they impose on themselves and others when they drive under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol.