Yates County holds DWI Victim Impact Panel

Staff Writer
The Chronicle Express

The Yates County STOP DWI Program sponsored a Yates County Drunk/Impaired Driving Victim Impact Panel (VIP), Wednesday, Sept. 19, 2012 at the County Office Building auditorium. This was the second panel held this year.

Stop DWI Coordinator, Yates County Sheriff Ron Spike, who chairs the Task Force VIP said, “Our mission is to expose DWI and DWAI offenders to the human factor of suffering that impaired driving can cause people affected by a DWI related crash and how lives, families and friends are forever altered by a bad choice to drink or take illegal drugs and then drive.”

When sentencing offenders, all courts in Yates County make attending the panel a condition of the sentence as required by the Vehicle and Traffic law.

Forty-one court-ordered offenders and 15 guests and drivers 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 were also present for registration.

Chief Deputy Howard Davis supervised the detail and issued the rules for the session and Chief Mark Hulse and Sgt. Randy Schwingle provided security. Safe Harbors of the Finger Lakes Crime Victim advocate and VIP Coordinator Kate Hansen showed a slide presentation with DWI related crash scenes and statistical information on drunk driving.

Opening remarks were from Jason Cook, Yates County District Attorney. The evening’s panel speaker was Ms. Peggy Heichel from Wellsboro, Pa. who coordinates the MADD (Mothers against Drunk driving) program in Tioga County Pa.

She shared an emotional story of how, in 1990, she lost her husband, and three of her five young children in a DWI-related crash where they were struck head-on by a drunk driver when they were coming home from church one evening. The other driver and his passenger were also killed.

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 75 minutes.

Yates County Administrator Sarah Purdy, Probation Director Sharon Dawes, Buildings & Grounds Superintendent Joe Reed, and Public Health Director Deb Minor helped to coordinate the event.

Spike praised the members of the task force and Ms. Heichel for all her synergy in making this VIP a success.

“If we can change behaviors and attitudes then there doesn’t have to be a next victim,” Spike said, and concluded, “Peggy’s story was very compelling about being victimized by a drunk driver killing most of her family and that she truly is a survivor, and those in attendance certainly realized how her life and family was forever impacted by someone who never should have been operating a vehicle.”