Memorial Day

Twelve people died in car crashes last year over the Memorial Day holiday weekend. Over half of those who died were not wearing safety belts.

"We are warning drivers to beware of the potentially fatal consequences of not wearing their safety belts, and more importantly they should ensure their passengers are buckled up as well," said Second Lieutenant Chris West, Oklahoma Highway Patrol.

Memorial Day weekend kicks off the summer traveling season for most Oklahomans, and West reports that troopers will continue their no-tolerance stance for drivers not wearing their safety belts.

"Earlier this week we announced our participation in the national safety campaign Operation America Buckles up Children. The campaign runs through Memorial Day," said West. "We'll be looking for 'deadbeat drivers' who don't ensure the children in their vehicle are properly restrained."

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the number one killer of children 15 and under is vehicle crashes - nationwide.

"You just have to wonder how many of those children might have lost their lives because the driver didn't do the responsible thing and make them buckle up," said West.

One of last year's 12 holiday deaths was alcohol-related and two of the fatal crashes were due to unsafe speed. There were 571 vehicle crashes statewide resulting in 389 injuries, of which 88 occurred in Oklahoma County.

"People get in a hurry and become inattentive while driving to their holiday destination," said West. "The driver is responsible for the safety of not only himself, but all who are in the vehicle."

Many Oklahomans will be spending the holiday at area lakes and Troopers assigned to the Department of Public Safety Lake Patrol Division issue some suggestions to keep safe while boating.

"The majority of boat crashes in Oklahoma occur when two vessels collide," said Lieutenant Bob Sanders, Lake Patrol commander. "This is usually because the boat's operator does not maintain a proper lookout."

Although the number of boat crashes decreased to 91 in 1999 compared to 106 in 1998, there were more fatalities from the fewer number of crashes. Sixteen people were killed in 1999 and 12 in 1998.

The Lake Patrol reports that the most common type of crashes is collisions, and the majority of these crashes occur on Saturday from noon until 6 p.m. Small, open motorboats are predominantly the type of vessels involved in the collisions.

"The chances of surviving a boat crash are greatly increased if the operator and passengers are wearing a personal floatation device," said Sanders.

Every vessel is required to carry one U.S. Coast Guard approved wearable life jacket for each person on board, and it must be readily accessible, of proper size and in serviceable condition. Children 12 years of age and younger are required to wear their life jacket on boats that are less than 26 feet in length when the vessel is underway.

Five boat crashes were reported over last year's Memorial Day holiday, three of them involved injuries there were no deaths.