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Sheila Pecor testifies in state house in support of the Kevin J. Pecor Act

By Michelle Symington

Staff Writer

WEST SPRINGFIELD Last Wednesday, Sheila Pecor, along with several legislators, representatives from Massbike (a bicycling coalition in the state) and other supporters testified in front of the Joint Committee on the Judiciary in support of the Kevin J. Pecor Act, also known as Kevin's Law.

The Act, which was originally filed by former State Senator Linda Melconian and resubmitted by State Senator Stephen Buoniconti (D-West Springfield) on the Senate side and by State Representative Gale Candaras (D-Wilbraham) on the House side, allows prosecutors to use the fact that someone has been driving on a suspended or revoked license as evidence of negligence in cases of vehicular manslaughter.

The original version stated that anyone driving on a suspended license would be negligent per se. The new version allows the prosecutors to use it as evidence of negligence and allows it to be discussed in court.

According to Buoniconti, "It is not forcing the courts to accept it as negligence per se, it allows at least the juries to hear that the person was negligent."

He explained that there is not currently a law in Massachusetts that states driving on a suspended license can be used as evidence of negligence.

He added that driving with bald tires or bad brakes can be used as evidence of negligence in a case, but there is no current law about driving without a license.

Kevin J. Pecor was killed in a car accident in 2003 when he was hit by a car while he was riding home from work. He was 16-years-old.

Sheila Pecor, Kevin's mother, explained that the driver had his license revoked by the state as a result of moving violations and was driving a vehicle that was not registered or insured.

"My son Kevin was tragically killed by someone's negligence," she said. "He has consequences for someone else's behavior."

She said that the driver who killed Kevin was mailed a traffic citation for driving on a suspended license and his license was reinstated three months after the accident.

Pecor said that the West Springfield Police officers who showed up at the accident scene blamed Kevin for the accident.

"It was their belief that he should not have been using his bike," she said, adding that the roads were dry and clear although there were snow banks on the side of the road. "It is not what the law says. It was their belief."

She said that she continues to try to have the law passed because she wants to avoid a similar situation from happening to someone else.

"There is no justice in the fact that someone could choose to drive without driving privileges, kill someone and have no consequences. I can't get my son back, but the injustice that happened after my son's death made it even a little more unbearable.

"If I don't do anything to change what happened for someone else and if I can't make positive changes out of Kevin's death then he would have died for nothing," Pecor said.

She explained she hopes this new law will prevent people from driving illegally.

"It is my hope that the thought of consequences while driving illegally will deter someone from getting behind the wheel," she said.

She added that if consequences do not keep someone from driving illegally, she hopes the law can be tightened so that the driver is removed from the road and incarcerated.

Pecor said that it was painful to testify and relive the story of her son's death, but she said if she stopped because it was too painful for her, she would be doing an injustice to the community and to her son.

"I can't do that," she said.

"It was horribly, horribly painful [to testify]," she said. "The pain and grief that I felt testifying was the same searing pain that I felt the day Kevin died. Every time I repeat the story that feeling does not ease."

This was the second time Pecor had to testify in support of the law. She said that there is a saying in the movie National Treasure pertaining to the way in which she taught her son to live his life "'If we have the ability to change something we have the responsibility to change it.'"

Pecor describes her son as a shy person who went to school, received good grades and was kind to people if they talked to him.

He was "kind, witty, humorous and the meaning and purpose of my life," she said.

Pecor also said, "he was my inspiration, my teacher and my very best friend, not only my son."

She said that she has been blessed through her whole experience because God has taken care of her by "putting caring people in her path."

She said that she is not that strong, but gains strength from help from the community, caring people and God.

"Love always gives us more than death takes away," she said.

She added that she also gains strength from the idea that Kevin's love and spirit remain with her.

"I just miss my son every single day," she said. "I wish he was here."

Pecor said that she hopes people support the legislation.

"It would give meaning to Kevin's death," she said.

Buoniconti said that "you could hear a pin drop in the room" during the 40 minutes of testimony last week.

He said that testimony for most bills are usually shorter and include some chatter in the room.

He said that Pecor's was one of the "most moving" testimonies he has heard.

"We had quite a few people in the room with tears," he said.

He added that he has heard the story about Kevin many times, and "it is still moving when I hear it from her."

Buoniconti said that he and other legislators have worked for well over 1.5 years to try to address the issues outlined in the Act.

"We can't get over the logic that, if a person's right top drive is suspended, the person should have never been on the road to begin with to cause the accident," he said. "It is a responsibility to drive a car. It is not a right to be able to drive a car, it is a permitted responsibility in society."

He explained that the bill is on front of the Judiciary Committee, which is a joint Senate and House committee, and ultimately has to be passed by several committees.

He said that there is no time frame for a bill and each bill's life is the life of the legislative session.

He said that if the Kevin J. Pecor Act is not passed this session, it would be continued to the next legislative session, which would be in two years.

He said, however, that "virtually everyone I come across when I talk about the bill seem supportive."

In addition to working to pass the Kevin J. Pecor Act, Pecor, along with friends and family, created the Kevin J. Pecor Memorial Foundation, Inc. and has been raising money to support local programs in Kevin's memory.

In her fund-raising letter, Pecor said, "Through the foundation we exemplify Kevin's generosity and kind spirit by raising funds to support local schools and community programs in need."

Over the past two years the foundation has raised over $20,000 to support programs such as the high school's track and field program, recognition programs for students, sportsmanship scholarships, sent an under privileged Springfield youth to Adventure Camp and has funded the Gallup Strengths Finders programs for the entire teaching staff in West Springfield.

The foundations next fund-raiser will take place Oct. 2 from 5 - 9 p.m. at the Knights of Columbus in Chicopee. Tickets are $35 and can be purchased by mailing a check or money order to The Kevin J. Pecor Memorial Foundation, Inc., 452 Morton Street, West Springfield, MA 01089. Tickets can also be purchased the night of the event for $40.

The fund-raiser will feature food from Gus and Paul's, dessert from Cerrato's BAkery and a cash bar.

Entertainment will be provided by Dan Kane Singer Meghann Fahy as well as DJ Anthony Manzi.

There will be a live auction featuring a variety of donated items from 7:30 - 9 p.m. Some of the auction items include signed memorabilia from Chris Capuana, Trot Nixon and Staind, get-away weekends, artwork, AAA memberships, theater tickets, jewelry and a fitness membership.

The event will also include an information desk on bicycle safety and legislation provided by Massbike and raffles.

For more information, call 747-5785 or visit