Fourth of July

State police from Texas, Missouri and New Mexico will rally with Oklahoma troopers in a kick off for a specific enforcement effort during the holiday weekend. The event is a press conference that will be held on the south steps of the state capitol building on Thursday, July 1 at 10 a.m.

"We are members of an international program called Combined Accident Reduction Effort, or Operation CARE. We have planned this press conference to raise public awareness and to encourage Oklahomans to drive safe anywhere they travel this holiday weekend," said First Lieutenant Stewart Meyer, Operation CARE Region VI chairperson.

Last year, eight people died during the Fourth of July holiday, an increase of six from 1997. Three of last yearís deaths were alcohol-related and six of the victims were not wearing safety belts. Of the seven fatal crashes, two were due to unsafe speed, two were alcohol-related, one each for left of center, improper movement and the driver falling asleep.

"The CARE effort focuses on three areas of enforcement, speed, alcohol and safety belts," said Meyer. "Last year's numbers prove that drivers need to be reminded to slow down, buckle up and drive sober."

Meyer said Operation CARE has been an ongoing international effort since 1977 when the program was created.

"In the late '70s, two officers from Michigan and Indiana discussed mutual concerns in lowering the fatality rate. Little did they know that their simple plan for interstate cooperation would balloon into an international effort of enforcement," said Meyer.

He recently attended the annual conference and took the reigns as chairperson for Region VI which includes New Mexico, Texas, Louisiana and Arkansas, in addition to Oklahoma.

"The idea to rally together in support of the holiday enforcement effort was created during the conference. With these out-of-state officers present, we want to get the word out that they are trying to reduce fatalities across neighboring state lines as well," said Meyer

The program requires officers to report holiday traffic statistics in specific areas of enforcement and on designated highways. The numbers are compiled and a report is submitted upon completion of the project.

"In addition, one of the more common issues we deal with over the holiday is motorists assists," said Meyer.

Oklahoma Highway Patrol officials encourage drivers to ensure their vehicles are in good running condition with the proper level of coolant. In case of car trouble, they recommend a cellular phone or a "send help" sign be available.

"We continue our zero tolerance policy on safety belts. If you or your front seat passenger are not wearing a safety belt, you will receive a ticket," said Meyer.

Troopers will be on patrol in the air, on the roads and on the waterways of Oklahoma.