Yates Co. hold DWI victim impact panel

The Yates County STOP DWI Program sponsored its annual fall Yates County Drunk/Impaired Driving Victim Impact Panel (VIP), Wednesday, September 15, 2015 at 7:00 pm at the County Office Building auditorium. Yates County does two panels a year and this was recognized as the 15th one done. Sheriff Ron Spike who chairs the Task Force VIP said, “Our mission is to have driving under the influence offenders understand the human factor of suffering that impaired driving can cause people affected by a related crash and how lives, families and friends are forever altered by a bad choice to drink or take illegal drugs and then drive a vehicle.” All courts in the county in sentencing offenders make attending the panel a condition of the sentence as required by the Vehicle and Traffic law. 43 court ordered offenders and several guests and drivers appeared for check-in, magnetometer screening, and breathe testing by Sheriff’s Deputies, Court Security, and Penn Yan Police Dept. before the panel commenced. Yates County Probation Officers were also present for registration and assistance including Director Sharon Dawes at reception. County Administrator Sarah Purdy assisted with coordination as did CSO Derek Christensen with audio visual. Penn Yan Police Chief Mark Hulse issued the rules for the session and security. The STOP programs VIP Coordinators Kerry Brennan and Jenna Owen organized the event and showed a slide presentation with DWI related crash scenes and statistical information on drunk driving. Opening remarks were from Sheriff Spike. The evening’s panel speaker was Ms. Peggy Heichel from Wellsboro, Pennsylvania who coordinates the MADD (Mothers against drunk driving) program in Tioga County PA. She shared an emotional story of how 25 years ago 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 90 minutes. Guests included District Attorney Valerie Gardner, Dist. III county legislator Mark Morris, and college interns. The Public Health Dept. and Bldgs. and Grounds helped to coordinate the event. Sheriff Spike thanked the members of the county task force and Ms. Heichel for all her synergy in making this VIP a success. “If we can change behaviors and attitudes then good choices will replace bad ones,” Spike said; and concluded that “Peggy’s victimization is very compelling when a drunk driver killed most of her family, and that those in attendance certainly realized how her life and family was forever impacted by a drunk driver.”

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