Students hear about consequences of drunk driving

VINCENT – A day before prom, Vincent High School students heard an important message about the dangers of drunk driving.

In a presentation facilitated by the Shelby County Drug Free Coalition on March 17, Lauren Beagle told students about her involvement in a deadly wreck 11 years ago that killed two people and left others, including her, permanently scarred.

Beagle was a 22-year-old “typical college student” at the University of Montevallo who had drinks with friends and then got behind the wheel of a car to drive home on a rainy night.

“My life changed in the blink of an eye,” said Beagle, who ran another vehicle off the road at an overpass on Interstate 65 South in Calera.

When Beagle was able to exit her vehicle, she heard screams from under the overpass and slid down the hill to try to help.

The other vehicle was carrying a father, mother, son and the son’s girlfriend.

The father and son were killed, and the mother sustained serious injuries—physically and emotionally.

“She didn’t get to say goodbye,” Beagle said. “It’s a nightmare you can’t wake up from.”

Beagle quit school, moved in with her parents and was a “zombie” for weeks and months following the incident.

She continually mourned for the mother and her family and was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and said the situation took a toll on her parents also, who felt like they had lost their daughter.

“For three years, my family and I were on an emotional rollercoaster,” Beagle said.

Then there was the legal process.

Beagle was determined to have been legally intoxicated at the time of the wreck and was initially charged with murder.

She and her family ended up owing about $30,000 in legal fees, so they had yard sales, selling almost everything of value that they owned.

In 2009, Beagle was sentenced on two counts of vehicular homicide and two counts of third-degree assault.

She would serve a five-year split sentence, with one year spent in Shelby County Community Corrections work release program and four years probation.

“I’m very lucky to not be in prison right now,” Beagle said but added that her mistake has come with a worse sentence than any court could have imposed. “That one mistake has left me with a lifetime sentence (of regret).”

The mother from the wreck attended Beagle’s sentencing and sent word that she would be willing to talk with Beagle, who was emotionally distraught.

“This amazing woman hugged me and told me she loved me and told me to think about it,” Beagle said. “I have for 11 years. I want you to think about it now.”

Beagle urged the students to have a backup plan if they have been drinking, including a designated driver or even calling their parents.

“It affects so many lives other than just your own,” she said.

Vincent Middle High School Principal Michele Edwards said she thought it was important for the students to hear from Beagle.

“I think it was good today for you to hear a real story,” Edwards said.

Juniors Hannah Daughdrill, Alayshia Frazier and Tristan Isbell attended the presentation and agreed with their principal.

“She was brave to come up and talk about it,” Daughdrill said. “It’s something she’ll carry all her life.”

Before Beagle’s presentation, students viewed vehicles that had been destroyed in wrecks involving drunk/drugged/distracted drivers, and Jan Corbett, coordinator of Shelby County Drug Free Coalition, introduced Bridget Jordan Smith, a new staff member with the organization.

Smith is a 1987 Vincent High School graduate who asked the current students to take the messages to heart.

“We want you to get to the prom safely and get back home safely,” Smith said.