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Sobering reality: Drunk drivers on the High Desert

By Kandra Kent
Published On: Dec 31 2013 11:17:55 PM CST

NewsChannel 21's Kandra Kent spoke with police, the District Attorney and insurance agents about the consequences and realities of drunk driving.

BEND, Ore. -

You've probably heard those catchy taglines: "Drive sober or get pulled over" and "Drive hammered, get nailed."

But the sad truth is, most drunk drivers will get away.

"Most people who drink alcohol have, at one time or another, felt like they had one too many when they drove," Deschutes County District Attorney Patrick Flaherty said recently.

Sheriff's Lt. Deron McMaster agrees: It's sobering news to learn just how many people hit the roads drunk.

"After midnight, even on a regular night, probably one in three cars that you pass may have a drunk driver behind the wheel," McMaster said.

So on New Year's Eve, you can expect lots of impaired drivers -- local law enforcement officials certainly do.

"We'll have several more deputies to work DUII patrol specifically," McMaster said. "They'll be out all over the county."

Bend police officials also said they will be on the lookout -- adding three patrols specifically downtown.

And if you think drunk driving is all about a number, think again. That .08 blood-alcohol limit doesn't always mean much to an officer.

"We're looking to find out whether someone can operate a motor vehicle," McMaster said.

Having only a couple drinks can come with a staggering price tag.

"You're going to get fined upon a conviction, you're going to lose your driver's license for at least 30 days, if not 90 days," McMaster said.

Tack on legal fees, fines and classes, and you could be looking at more than $5,000 for a first-time offense.

And don't forget that insurance -- rates could put a dent in your wallet for years to come.

"DUIs -- they are the big one," said Cascade Insurance Center Personal Lines Manager Tim Bangert.  "Right there, you'll probably  get double on your premium. You're looking at a good six years before you get back to paying the rates that everyone else is paying."

If you bundle insurance policies, expect to pay more everywhere.

"So then you're seeing an increase on your homeowners' (insurance), because you've lost your package discount. That's 10 to 15 percent," Bangert said.

If you get away with just paying fines and fees, consider yourself lucky.

"Just about every vehicular homicide we've prosecuted, or that we're currently doing, involves a driver who is impaired," Flaherty said.

Risky business, if you're one of millions of Americans banking on just not getting caught.

Bend police urge anyone that doesn't have to drive anywhere to stay off the roads on New Year's Eve.

Officials say DUII arrests have increased in recent years. They credit much of the rise to increased use of prescription pills behind the wheel.

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