Eyewitness Describes Early-Morning Accident, Drunk Driving Arrest of McLean Teen

Reader calls for community discussion of teen drinking and driving. Why do some parents look the other way?


Jacob Potashnik, 19, of McLean, was arrested last Saturday in the early morning hours in the 6700 block of Old Chesterbrook Road and charged with drug and alcohol offenses, Fairfax County police reported.

Police were called to the June 16 crash shortly before 4 a.m. A 1997 Jeep Cherokee was eastbound on Old Chesterbrook Road and struck a parked Volkswagen Passat, pushing the car into a utility pole, police said. The driver suffered minor injuries but did not require an ambulance.

Police charged Potashnik, driving a Cherokee, with first offense possession of marijuana and first offense DWI. He was transported to the Fairfax County Adult Detention Center.

McLean resident Guru Raj, who lives on that block, shared his account in an email to friends. He asked: When will the bad decisions associated with youthful drinking, drug use and driving end in McLean?

He shared his email with Patch and Patch is publishing it here with his permission:

"Just after 3:50 a.m. this morning, my wife and I were abruptly woken by a loud crash outside of our house.

The short version of the story is that a 19-year-old man, driving at what must have been a very high rate of speed, plowed his Jeep into the back of my neighbor's parked 3,100+ pound Volkswagen Passat. In spite of the parking brake being applied on the Passat, the momentum of the Jeep caused the Passat to careen forward into the telephone pole in front of my house and crumpled the frame of the car.

It was a miracle that no one had to be taken to the hospital.

That it was the last day of school didn't go unnoticed.

The police showed up and the driver of the Jeep was carted away, charged with drunk driving.

I googled the drunk driver's name. One of the first hits that comes up is an article from the Patch last month. Apparently the drunk driver had been caught at a house party, along with friends, in our neighborhood just a few weeks ago. 

I think you'd agree—the name of which kid it was isn't relevant.

I'm angered by some of the comments made in response to the article. This morning's accident was preventable.  Last months arrests could have served as a wake up call to the drunk driver in particular and our community more broadly. From the comments, it certainly doesn't appear to have done that. It seems like we are unwilling to take underage drinking arrests seriously unless they involve fatalities or other unthinkable tragedies.

The idea that seems to exist in our community (and that is reflected in many of the comments in the Patch article) that parties at which teen drinking and drug use occurs is harmless and innocuous and isn't news simply baffles me. I've heard this logic just as much from parents as from teens. How can we expect teens to act responsibly when parents seem to be condoning their behavior as "kids being kids?"

Hoping to send a clear message to our 9-year-old daughter, we let her watch as the drunk driver took a field sobriety test, refused a breathalyzer, and was carted away in handcuffs. We hope that the experience made an impact on her that she can consider when making decisions in the future. But with that said, it might do her no good if other parents in the area don't see this as an issue or set high expectations for their kids. I don't want to live in a community where the standards for achievement and academic excellence might be high, but standards for personal integrity or responsibility are low.

I don't want to come off all high-horse here. I was caught by the cops at a summer party when I was in college for having a beer in my hand when I wasn't 21. My parents were called and had to come pick me up.

The shame of that experience will stick with me to my grave. I was lucky to have parents who were open and explicit about how lucky I'd been not to have been sent to jail (or worse, injured myself or others) and a community which, while accepting, didn't let me forget that my actions were unacceptable and had consequences.

Why do parents in this community (no one person in general, but as a group) not feel the desire to send a strong signal with a unified voice that we as a community will not tolerate the risks associated with teen drinking and the driving that almost always often ensues? This accident might have been caused by one individual, but I'm confident he wasn't the only underage youth drinking and driving that night.

Why do we assume that it is the responsibility of school administrators or the police to stop underage drinking and driving but then undermine the message by claiming that "kids will be kids?"

How many more stories like this do we have to hear before the madness stops?"

Jimmy June 25, 2012 at 05:29 PM
The drinking law should be changed to 18. However, the driving law should be changed to 21. No driver's licenses until 21 years of age.
MaryAnn S. June 25, 2012 at 06:26 PM
Great article, Guru. Thanks. The main reason teens choose not to drink is parental disapproval. According to the recent survey results for FCPS, most of our teens are not drinking. For those that do, the consequences are often frightening, particularly because of the competitive, binge drinking it leads to, a behavior that doubles from high school and to college. You are correct; it is a community and parental concern. Many students are not just drinking one or two, although even that impairs judgment. "The Perils of the College Drinking Culture" is eye-opening and chilling - a must see for college bound students and their parents. The work starts way before college.
Colin McLean June 26, 2012 at 02:59 PM
I am so sick of foreigners coming here and telling us how to live our lives. If you don't like the way we roll here, go live someplace else !
D. Howard July 01, 2012 at 06:33 PM
Colin, I find you inappropriate. And disgusting. Flagged.
Dorothy Hassan October 07, 2012 at 08:52 PM
Well, Colin, I used to be a foreigner. I've been a citizen for over 30 years and a taxpayer for 46. One thing we were taught about American democracy is that free speech is a right. Even for those of us you consider "other." Or don't you believe in those portions of democracy you deem inconvenient?


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