Lives Changed by Drunk Drivers - KULR8.com | Montana's News Leader | Billings, MT

Lives Changed by Drunk Drivers

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BILLINGS, Mont. -

We see the headlines and hear all the stories about the tragedies caused by those who choose to drink and drive.

A third of all fatal accidents are caused by drunk driver according to the Centers for Disease Control.

In an effort to learn more, KULR-8's Katharine MacKnight spends the evening on patrol with Billings Police -- and in the process -- finds herself face to face with the sobering reality of drunk driving.

It was a typical Saturday night, Garrett Sellers and some friends decided to leave Billings and head to Shepherd. They went to check out a house party.

"It was a pretty crazy night. a lot of drinking involved and just being a teenager. Around here, that's what they do when they're bored," says Sellers.

In the early morning hours on Sunday, the group of teens finally up and left.

But, they were smart. They had a designated driver.

"I had blood coming out of my mouth, the windows were broken, airbag was deployed, and around that time is when I figured we had been in a car wreck."

This Pontiac, full of the teens, was hit head on by a drunk driver injuring ten, changing all their lives forever.

"I had plans of being a United States Marine, you know, going some place.and now I work out in North Dakota. You know, that wasn't really what I had planned. It changed in a instant."

It's a statistic you hear time and time again, drunk drivers are responsible for 1 out of every 3 fatal accidents. yet police say people continue to needlessly die.

Unfortunately, Billings Police Officer Brandon Idhe has to face the results of drunk driving.

"What people think of when they think of DUI: weaving across the lines, unable to maintain their lane position, changes in speed," says Officer Idhe.

Officer Idhe is a traffic enforcement officer and usually catches drunk drivers during regular traffic stops.

But on this day, dispatch received a tip about this drunk driver and the caller stayed on the phone until the driver was stopped.

"The more sets of eyes we have on the road, the more likely we can catch these people. if the caller can safely follow and keep in contact with law enforcement, that helps us out a lot," says Idhe.

Officer Idhe says this driver was obviously inebriated and she was taken to the DUI processing center where she became completely uncooperative and out of control.

After denying field sobriety tests and blood tests, she was taken to the cell and charged with driving under the influence.

"No doubt in my mind that she would have killed somebody or hurt them seriously or been involved in a crash if she would have kept driving," says Idhe.

As for the drunk driver who hit Garrett, no one made a call about her driving, no one pulled her over before the crash.

A mother of two, April LaForge will spend the next four years in the Department of Corrections.

"She had been drinking, she made a mistake, and now she will pay for it," says Sellers.

According to the Billings Police Department, 227 drivers were pulled over for their 1st driving under the influence offense this year and 75 more were pulled over for their 2nd drunk driving offense.

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