5 years after crash, young man unsure about driving again

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HENNIKER, N.H. (AP) – Jim Dozois is ready to move forward with his life, but he’s not sure if he wants to do it behind the wheel of a car.

Dozois, who now lives in Westport, Conn., hasn’t driven since March 24, 2001, the night his car hit a snow bank, flipped over and crashed into a telephone pole, killing his best friend. On Friday, he received permission to reapply for his driver’s license, but said he isn’t sure if he’s ready.

“It scares me,” he said.

Dozois was 23 when he was driving Josh Hall, 24, home from a birthday party. Police say he was going at least 92 mph in a 50 mph zone. He was taken from Concord Hospital to the Merrimack County jail with his hands still covered in his friend’s blood.

“There are many days that I wish I were by his side soaring with the eagles,” he sobbed at his sentencing hearing in 2002. “Because I am still here and because Josh is not, and because so many have suffered already, I have trouble understanding what good could become of me.”

Dozois pleaded guilty to negligent homicide, but instead of going to prison, he was sentenced to community service – including a requirement that he give 16 speeches about the crash to high school students. Though the judge who sentenced him was skeptical, Hall’s parents supported the deal. They also attended Friday’s hearing and said they agreed Dozois should be allowed to drive again.

“We do not want to see anything else standing in the way of him going on with his life,” Doug Hall said. “I think he has paid a price beyond measurement.”

Dozois lives in Westport, across the street from a railway station. He chose the location for its public transportation system and commutes an hour-and-a-half each way by train to his sales job with a New York hardware company.

Getting his license back would allow him to move closer to his girlfriend, who lives in Rhode Island, and his family in Massachusetts.

While Hall’s death always will be with him, Dozois said he is beginning to find comfort in remembering his friend’s life as well. He has reconnected with college friends he once avoided out of guilt.

“We like to talk about things we used to do,” he said. “It helps to talk about him. You remember the good times.”

Talking about the crash, meanwhile, has helped countless teenagers, according to those who have heard Dozois’ speech.

County attorney Dan St. Hilaire said the sentence, and how Dozois handled it, has inspired prosecutors to think about creative sentencing and its possibilities.

“Of all the people we’ve prosecuted, Mr. Dozois stands out,” he said at Friday’s hearing. “He, I’m sure, has prevented other crashes from occurring.”

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