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Deadly Crash Fuels Push for Crackdown on Drunk Drivers - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Deadly Crash Fuels Push for Crackdown on Drunk Drivers

November 17, 2007 November 17, 2007
Nick Fournier Nick Fournier
Shawn Burritt Shawn Burritt

Montpelier, Vermont - March 25, 2008

It was a sea of blue at the statehouse. With one name standing out, Nick.

"I have all the memories and the smiles, but just having something to wear so people can ask me why you have the shirt," said Nick's friend, Elizabeth Dufresne.

Friends, family, came by the hundreds to urge lawmakers to strengthen drunk driving laws in honor of Nick Fournier.

When asked what it was like to see the turnout, Nick's mom Cathy Fournier said, "It was wonderful. It just shows Nick was a great, great, great... I can't do it," and she started crying - choked up with emotion.

Just four months ago police say Cathy Fournier's 18-year-old son was killed by a drunk driver who was going the wrong way on the interstate.

Shawn Burritt was on parole for his third DWI conviction, had a suspended license and no insurance. The tragedy, prompted calls for change.

"Our goal is to prevent this from happening to another family," said Cathy Fournier.

Instead of just days in jail which can be the current practice, the Fourniers want increased penalties for repeat drunk drivers.

They also want to allow the state to seize vehicles of people who violate parole by driving.

And they want to prohibit people with suspended licenses from registering vehicles, and to require proof of insurance at registration instead of at inspection.

"I certainly sympathize with everything they said," said Motor Vehicle Commissioner Bonnie Rutledge. She knows the pain of losing someone to a drunk driver, her 17-year-old nephew was killed several years ago, but she says forcing insurance is not the answer.

Right now about 5.5% of Vermont's drivers are uninsured, that's the second lowest rate of any state in the country. And Rutledge doesn't think changing insurance laws will be effective.

"If they are thinking it is going to make everyone comply it is not," said Rutledge.

But lawmakers say they plan to tighten DUI laws.

"Alcohol remains the number one drug of abuse in Vermont," said Rep. Bill Lippert, D-Hinesburg.

At the end of the rally Cathy Fournier said, "I pray we have the support. The change is going to mean a lot."

A family grieving, but finding strength, through action.

Kristin Carlson - WCAX News

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