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DWI Victim Impact Panel in Yates County

The Yates County STOP DWI Program sponsored a Yates County Drunk/Impaired Driving Victim Impact Panel, Wednesday, April 18, 2012 at 7:00PM at the County Office Building auditorium.Stop DWI Coordinator Sheriff Ron Spike was the master of ceremonies and said, “The mission is to expose DWI offenders to the human factor of suffering that impaired driving can cause people affected by a DWI crash and how lives, families and friends are forever altered by a bad decision to drink too much and then drive.” All courts in sentencing offenders make attending the panel a condition of the sentence as required by the Vehicle and Traffic law.40 court ordered offenders appeared for check-in, magnetometer screening, and breath testing by Sheriff’s Deputies, Court Security, and Penn Yan Police 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. Safe Harbors of the Finger Lakes Victims advocate Kate Hansen showed a slide presentation with DWI related crash scenes and statistical information on drunk driving. The introductory speaker was Yates County District Attorney Jason Cook. The evening’s panel speaker was Peggy Heichel from Wellsboro, Pennsylvania who coordinates the MADD (Mothers against Drunk driving) program in Tioga County PA shared an emotional story of how in 1990 she lost her husband, and three of her five 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 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 an hour. Yates County Administrator Sarah Purdy, Probation Director Sharon Dawes, Sheriff Spike praised the members of the task force and Ms. Heichel for all her synergy in making this panel a success. “If we can change behaviors and attitudes then there doesn’t have to be a next victim,” he said; and concluded that “Peggy’s story was very compelling about being victimized by a drunk driver killing most of her family that she truly is a survivor, and those in attendance certainly realized how her life and family was impacted by a drunk driver.”

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