May 17, 2011

Bill Dikant on FOX 23 New

Bill Dikant has talked about the dangers of drinking and driving for 30 years. When will we listen?

  FOX Focus: Still behind the wheel

Reported by: Kristin Lowman

They have multiple convictions on their record, and some still allowed to have their license.

They are repeat DWI offenders.

Some don't have one or two convictions, but as many as eight. And prosecutors say there are new cases coming in every day.

So why are they still behind the wheel?

A Schenectady County woman convicted of DWI eight times, is now charged with her ninth.

A Syracuse man could face life in prison, after being convicted last month of his ninth felony DWI.

These convictions are proof repeat offenders are out on the roads driving with or without a license.

Bill Dikant of Castleton says, "Its got to stop. I think someday maybe it will happen."

For 30 years, Bill Dikant has talked about the dangers of
drinking and driving. Three decades ago he lost his wife, two of his children, killed by a drunk driver.

In the years since, as a first responder he says he has witnessed too many crashes involving alcohol.

Dikant says, "I wish they could hear the screams and see the young children and teenagers put on a gurney, the way medics pump them full of stuff to keep them alive. Its a shame. Its a shame."

But Bill's stories, even a conviction sometimes isn't enough to serve as a wake up call for some drivers.

In March, Heather Higgins of Rotterdam was charged with her ninth DWI after she allegedly hit a pole on Mohawk Avenue. Records show Higgins' first DWI conviction was in 1979, her last in 2002.

She has done jail time, prison time, even lost her license for several years, getting it back in 2009.

Two years later, her license is now suspended.

Mary Tanner-Richter is head of the Vehicular Crimes Unit in the Albany County District Attorney's office. She says every day she sees people with multiple
DWI convictions. Each week new cases come in, no end to the work they do.

Tanner-Richter says, "I've had the same defendants on felony after felony, people that have come out of jail, and people that are now in state prison."

In some cases, the reoffenders are driving without a license like Dean Tuszynski of Syracuse. He is convicted of his ninth felony DWI.

In others, like the Higgins case in Schenectady County, she got her license back.

FOX23 News made repeated calls to the DMV for comment on how this was possible, but calls were never returned.

After Higgins arrest back in March, a DMV spokesperson told FOX23, "When an individual's license is revoked, they have to reapply with the DMV. During that process, we make the determination about whether that
application should be approved or not."

Tanner-Richter says, "Even though you may have met your revocation, they have the final say on if they give back the license. Contrary to popular belief it is not a right, it is a privilege, they make that determination."

But STOP DWI advocates have said they DMV needs to be tougher when reoffenders apply for a license.

Dikant says, "A New Yorker with a valid pistol permit goes out and commits a misdemeanor, goodbye license."

Dikant says for drivers it should be three strikes then no license.

Prosecutors suggest more education, increasing interlock systems in vehicles, and everyone on board including judges, lawyers and the community on tougher penalties for drunk drivers.

But Dikant says some may never learn, sadly making a choice that could not only cost them their life, but possibly take another

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