The Yates County STOP DWI Program sponsored its annual fall Yates County Drunk/Impaired Driving Victim Impact Panel (VIP), Sept. 25 at the County Office Building auditorium. Yates County does two panels a year, and this was recognized as the 23rd session since the program originated.

Sheriff Ron Spike who chairs the Task Force VIP said, “Our mission is to have driving under the influence by alcohol or drugs offenders understand the human factor of victimization that impaired driving can cause others affected by a related crash, and how lives, families, and friends are forever altered by not thinking and making a bad choice to drink or take illegal drugs and then drive a motor vehicle.” 

All courts in the county in sentencing offenders make attending the panel a condition of the sentence as required by the state traffic laws. Thirty court ordered offenders attended along with several guests. All appeared for check-in, magnetometer screening, and breath testing by Sheriff’s Deputies, Court Security, and Penn Yan Police Officers before the panel commenced. Yates County Probation Officers, including Director Sharon Dawes, were also present for registration and assistance at reception. Court Officer Derek Christensen assisted with security and audiovisual equipment. 

Penn Yan Police Chief Thomas Dunham issued the rules for the session. The STOP programs VIP Coordinator Linda Wright organized the event. Sheriff Spike served as emcee, and opening remarks were made by Yates County District Attorney Todd Castella on consequences and creating victims.

The evening’s panel speaker was Marianne Angelillo, the married mother of four children from Skaneateles. She presented a heart-breaking story she called “Sharing My Stones,” as she lost her 17-year-old-son, Matthew, who was a passenger in a tragic DWI-speeding car crash in 2004. Since then, she has turned her grief into a campaign of awareness for parents and teens in a courageous effort to prevent similar tragedies. She has been recognized by the New York State Governors Traffic Safety Committee and has been the recipient of the STOP-DWI Community Involvement Award.

“Marianne’s family victimization is very compelling,” Spike said. “Those in attendance certainly realized how her life and family were forever impacted by someone not thinking and driving drunk.”

The attendees then completed an evaluation form and received a certificate of attendance for their submission to the courts for verification that they attended as ordered. The event lasted about 60 minutes.

Spike thanked the members of the county task force and Marianne Angelillo for all her synergy in making this VIP a success, noting that she also spoke at the Dundee High School earlier that day. “If we can change behaviors and attitudes, then good choices will replace bad ones, for if not the consequences can be deadly,” said VIP Coordinator Linda Wright.