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Drunk driving can be very costly

TRI-COUNTY AREA—The end of the year holiday season means festivities, parties, and many times an alcoholic drink or two.

This also invariably means there are some drunk drivers. Yates County Sheriff Ron Spike explained that when an officer stops a driver for any violation and suspects the driver’s abilities are impaired, then a field sobriety test is given right there. This includes walking a straight line, touching their nose, and a field breathalyzer test.

He said the officer will arrest the person if the driver’s abilities are impaired. The driver is then taken to the sheriff’s office for a chemical test via the DataMaster. Schuyler County Sheriff Bill Yessman explained the device gives an accurate reading of the person’s Blood-Alcohol Content (BAC). The suspect breathes into a tube for the reading. Yessman added if the device is not available the driver would be taken to the hospital to get the BAC level.

According to New York State’s Governor’s Traffic Safety Committee (GTSC), a BAC of more than .05 percent is evidence that your driving ability is impaired by alcohol. A BAC of .08 percent or more is evidence of intoxication. Under New York’s Zero Tolerance Law, drivers under age 21 may be detained for driving with as little as .02 percent BAC.

“If they’re intoxicated they’re given a ticket to appear in court at a later date,” said Yessman.

However, if the driver already has a felony charge or a prior conviction, then the driver is arraigned by a local justice. Spike said if the driver refuses the test at the sheriff’s office, they are also arraigned. He added the driver is then released or put in jail until bail is paid. According to the GTSC, if convicted you will face a substantial fine, license revocation, higher insurance costs, legal fees and a possible jail sentence.

Spike said getting a ticket for drunk driving can cost between $500 and $1,000, plus fees and surcharges depending on the situation. An aggravated DWI (having a BAC more than .18) can cost between $1,000 and $2,500. A driver can also have their license suspended or revoked.

Spike said law enforcement agencies in Yates County made the highest number of arrests in 2009 with 122. He added he is still getting numbers in 2010, but it’s “on track to be over 100 this [past] year.”

Yessman said that during the holiday season there were extra patrols looking for people driving under the influence. He added there were more patrols out in the night and into the morning hours. Yessman said it is surprising to see the number of DUIs in the morning hours.

He added that in general New Year’s Eve is a pretty quiet night. Yessman attributed this to training with local establishments.






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