Panel provides victim’s perspective

Anyone arrested for driving while intoxicated (DWI) in Kitsap County is required to attend a court-ordered victim’s panel. Designed to demonstrate the impact driving impaired has on other people, the presentation strives to persuade the attendees to not ever drive under the influence again.

“You’re good people who have made poor choices,” said one member of the panel who did not give his name. “The decision to drive drunk is like Russian Roulette. If you drive drunk, things will happen and it will burn you.”

The 90-minute program meets at 7 p.m. on the fourth Tuesday of every month at the Abundant Life Church in Bremerton. Most all of the 100 or so people who attend each month are ordered to be there by the court as a condition of their sentence. Depending on the circumstances, it could be the extent of the penalty, or something the offender does prior to a stay in jail.

Each court-ordered attendee must pay $30 at the beginning and hang around until the end to receive a certificate of completion. This is brought to the court, usually within 90 days from the time of the sentence.

Some attendees are there to learn. The panel is open to the public, and anyone who is not court-ordered can attend for free. So the parent of a teenage driver may require attendance as a condition of allowing their son or daughter to get a license.

In that sense, the new driver could be “scared straight.”

About 30 minutes prior to the panel’s beginning, a film begins, documenting the effect of a drunk driver on a family. Many of those featured in the film are teenagers who drove sober but were ambushed and killed by a drunk driver.

After the film, the first speaker walks up to the stage and begins to talk.

Unlike a standard business presentation or classroom, there is no introduction stating what the attendees will see and how they should feel. Instead it begins slowly, with one person telling the story about how they ended up with an artificial leg.

And there are no microphones, which forces participants to actively listen.

One speaker follows another, each telling their story in detail. This particular night there are no speakers who caused another’s death through drunk driving. Instead, there are four stories from people who reformed before there was a disaster — and one mother who lost her son when a drunk ran a stop sign in Port Orchard.

These stories are the saddest, involving innocent young people who do all the right things but are in the wrong place at the wrong time.

“We really can’t protect ourselves against someone who is driving drunk,” said April Borbon, who runs the local panels. “We will never be completely safe until everyone stops drinking and driving.”

One speaker, Nora Sizemore of Kingston, tells a story full of sadness and irony. She was an alcoholic for several years and could not stop, but did so several years ago for the sake of her young children.

After both she and her husband became clean and sober, their 17-year-old son Kyle was killed in an accident when he got into a car with a drunk friend at the wheel.

Sizemore tells the story of visiting her son in the hospital, and the decision to take him off of life support. Throughout her talk she holds Kyle’s right shoe, telling how it is always under her bed except for the time she uses it as a prop for her speeches.

“It doesn’t smell like a teenager’s foot anymore,” Sizemore said of the shoe. “But I can stick my hand in the shoe and feel the compression of his foot and his toes. And I can see his foot in my mind; I remember washing those toes and cutting his toenails.”

Sizemore said she is not completely healed.

“I know that a lot of people have terrible drug addiction problems,” she said. “I can tell them that I’ve been there and I was able to turn my life around. And if I can reach one of the 100 people in this room, then maybe I can save a life.”

Apart from addressing victim’s panels, Sizemore is behind a campaign to provide driver education scholarships to those who cannot afford them. Once free, the necessary safety classes can cost as much as $400. So many kids study for the driver’s test and miss important information.

To support this, Sizemore is putting together the third annual Kyle Sizemore Memorial Baseball and Fastpitch Tournament to be held on Memorial Day Weekend at the Kitsap County Fairgrounds.

With 12 teams, the three-day tournament will include presentations and displays about drunk driving prevention. There will also be several raffles.

Sizemore herself will be at the Albertson’s in Kingston on May 13 in

the first of a series of raffle sales opportunities.

In addition to the regular victim’s panel on the fourth Tuesday of every month, a teen panel is held on the second Tuesday. A Spanish-language panel takes place on the second Tuesday of alternate months, beginning in May.

All panels begin at 7 p.m.

For more information about victim’s panels, call (360) 731-5139.

Those interested in the Kyle Sizemore Memorial Baseball and Fastpitch Tour-nament should call (360) 297-8535.

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