Is there a repeat drunk driver living near you? Here’s how to find out.

A Cleveland19 Investigation found nearly 5,500 Ohioans have five or more drunk driving convictions.

Is there a repeat drunk driver living near you? Here’s how to find out.
(Source: WOIO)

CLEVELAND, OH (WOIO) - One out of three deadly car accidents last year were related to drunk driving.

Is there a repeat drunk driver living near you? Here’s how to find out.

And arrest after arrest, repeat offenders continue to get behind the wheel.

Tom Tomasheski's world was shattered in 2011 when a drunk driver took the lives of Tammy, his daughter-in-law, and Tommy, his grandson-- just 11 years old.

“We have a life sentence,” Tomasheski said.

“There is never a day in my life, there's never a day I don't think of my grandson. There's never a day where I don't think of my daughter-in-law,” he said, tearing up.

The survivors left behind are still picking up the pieces.

“There's never a day I don't think of the pain that I see my son and granddaughter go through,” Tomasheski said.

The man behind the wheel, Gerald Wetherbee, had been arrested twice for driving drunk before the deadly crash.

He was sentenced to 35 years in prison.

Tom Tomasheski's family members, Tammy and Tommy, died in the crash. His son Tom and granddaughter Danielle survived.
Tom Tomasheski's family members, Tammy and Tommy, died in the crash. His son Tom and granddaughter Danielle survived. (Source: Tomasheski family)

Last year, state troopers made 26,595 OVI arrests in Ohio.

Lt. Robert Sellers, the public affairs commander with the Ohio State Highway Patrol, says in the past 25 years, OVI-related fatalities have dropped significantly.

last year, 358 people died at the hands of a drunk driver in Ohio, down from 405 people killed in 2017.

“These are 400 lives lost, 400 birthdays not celebrated, 400 Christmases, Thanksgivings, you name it,” Lt. Sellers said.

One third of those deaths involved repeat offenders.

“Unfortunately it's clear that they don't care about their own safety or the safety of everybody else who's out on the road,” Sellers said.

Cleveland19 found 5,490 Ohioans have received five or more OVI-related convictions in the past 20 years.

The state publishes their names and home addresses in a searchable online database to try and deter them from continuing to drive under the influence.

Many of the top offenders are from Northeast Ohio.

CLICK HERE to search the database.

Duran Mims of Elyria is at the top of the registry with 12 OVI-related convictions since 1999.

Leo Hammer Jr. of Ashtabula comes in at #2.

He hasn't had a valid driver's license since 1995, but that didn't stop him from racking up 11 OVIs in the last 20 years.

And Maggie Haas of Mentor-on-the-Lake isn't far behind with 10 OVI-related convictions.

Duran Mims, Maggie Haas and Leo Hammer Jr. are the top OVI offenders in Northeast Ohio, according to the OVI offenders registry.
Duran Mims, Maggie Haas and Leo Hammer Jr. are the top OVI offenders in Northeast Ohio, according to the OVI offenders registry. (Source: WOIO/Ohio Department of Rehabilitation & Correction)

“It's disheartening, because these people have been through the system so many times but they still have a disregard for other people's safety,” Lt. Sellers said.

Records show Mims, Hammer and Haas have received more than two dozen licenses suspensions between them, but those suspensions haven't prevented them from getting behind the wheel.

Cleveland19 reached out to the top OVI offenders we named in our story for a comment and we have not heard back.

Lt. Sellers says unfortunately, driving with suspended licenses is common.

“As long as they have access to a vehicle, whether they're sober or they're impaired, they're going to drive it,” Lt. Sellers said.

Law enforcement officers are doing their best to enforce our laws.

But are they working?

In Ohio, repeat offenders face stiffer fines and prison time.

A second OVI offense in 10 years carries at least 10 days in jail.

Your license can be suspended up to five years and you have to attend a treatment program.

Those first few offenses are typically misdemeanors unless someone is killed or seriously hurt by an impaired driver.

It doesn't become a felony offense until the fourth OVI, which carries a jail sentence from 60 days to one year and fines up to $10,500.

Lawmakers are trying to fix some of the weaknesses with Annie’s Law, named after a Southern Ohio woman killed by a repeat drunk driver.

“We hope it will be quite literally sobering to someone who has a first offense,” said State Senator Nickie Antonio (D- Lakewood).

Antonio was a co-sponsor of the bill, which went into effect in 2017.

State Sen. Nickie Antonio was a co-sponsor of Annie's Law.
State Sen. Nickie Antonio was a co-sponsor of Annie's Law. (Source: WOIO)

First time OVI offenders can choose to install interlock breath-test devices in their cars for full driving privileges.

Otherwise, their license is now suspended for a year instead of six months.

“The idea is to have consequences today, on your offense today. And understand that going forward, you need to make a change, you need to stop. And if that means you have to use a device to be able to use your vehicle, to be able to get to your job, so be it,” Antonio said.

Annie’s Law also increases the look back period for judges when it comes to sentencing. They are now able to look at 10 years of driving records, instead of just six.

Antonio says it's too soon to know whether the new law is working yet.

“I think we'll get more mileage out of something like a deterrent rather than increased felonies,” Antonio said.

Mothers Against Drunk Driving says Ohio needs to step it up with both.

A map of the United States by MADD shows the ranking of every state in the country when it comes to the strength of its drunk driving laws.

On a scale of one to five stars, MADD ranks Ohio a 2.5. Ohio only gets a full star for sobriety checkpoints.

Surrounding states don't do much better, but West Virginia scores a 4.5.

MADD says it's one of the highest ranked states for its laws, noting drunk driving deaths have dropped by 50 percent due in part to a 2008 all-offender ignition interlock law.

So how can Ohio improve?

MADD recommends our state pass a similar interlock law and make it a felony to drive drunk with kids in a car.

Tomasheski, a retired law enforcement officer, says changing the laws is not the answer.

“The only way to keep me safe from a guy that’s got 5 DWIs is to not let him drive anymore. And the only way to not let him drive anymore is to control where he goes, and that means taking away his freedom. I guess we need more prisons,” Tomasheski said.

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