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Number of hit-and-run cases may prove surprising

By Katie Higgins
Published On: Nov 01 2013 09:50:19 PM CDT

NewsChannel 21's Katie Higgins found out that a number that seems like a lot of hit-and-runs is actually about average for the city of Bend.

BEND, Ore. -

Oregon has a large number of hit-and-run drivers, ranging from hitting cars and property to hitting and even killing people, then leaving the scene. These kind of accidents are happening way more than many people might think.
  
"I was going home late from work one night it was 1:15 in the morning," George Hoselton a hit-and-run victim and Bend attorney, said Friday. "All of a sudden, I heard some lights coming in the other direction -- and all the tires locked up, screaming really loud."

Hoselton was going around a 90-degree turn on his drive home, and he said the driver coming towards him was going too fast.

"We both slid to where the roads came together, and he hit me in the driver's door," Hoselton said.

The impact damaged his car enough that he couldn't open the door.

"I tried to get out of my car, but of course my door was stuck. And he just backed up and drove off," Hoselton said.

In a moment of confusion and panic, like this one, it's crucial to take note of a few pieces of evidence -- especially if you ever want to find the driver who is fleeing the scene of the crime.
 
"Generally speaking, it all boils down to the license plate," said Bend police Sgt. Brian Beekman.

He said that with a license plate, there is a very good chance of solving the case -- but without one, there is a very low probability.

Sometimes even when they do find the car, though, there's nothing they can do.

"All I could see was a shadow behind the wheel -- and even if they find the car they can't just arrest the owner," Hoselton said.

Hoselton didn't get a good look at the driver, and the owner of the car said he didn't do it.

So he joins a long list of people who report the crime every month. It can be upwards of 60 people some months.

However, in October alone, 39 people in Bend could prove it, which is above the monthly average of 25 to 30. Many of which took place downtown on Wall or Bond streets.

"We do respond to quite a large number of hit-and-run crashes, so i don't believe that number is an anomaly," Beekman said.

There were more hit-and-runs in Bend last month than days in the month -- and they range from serious to mild offenses.

"Hit-and-run misdemeanor is injury to a property; hit-and-run felony is causing injury to a person," Beekman said.

Beekman says many drivers who flee the scene are just panicked and don't know what to do. He said many times, they are worried about their insurance and other things.

Oregon law also rewards those who eventually turn themselves in. The problem with that is, even those who may have been drunk at the time of the accident can turn themselves in and admit to the crime -- but long after they've sobered up.

Suspected drivers in hit-and-runs have two years under Oregon's statute of limitations before they are free of being charged by the law.

"They don't tell you when they're going to drive away -- just all of a sudden, they pull off and they're gone," Hoselton said.

By comparison, Bellingham, Wash., a city about the same size as Bend, had 33 hit and runs reported for the month of October. A city the size of Portland can have 400 or more.

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