Thanksgiving Holiday

The Oklahoma Highway Patrol reported a death toll of 11 during the 1999 Thanksgiving holiday.

None of the victims were wearing safety belts.

"Unfortunately, there are people who will read this statistic and will continue to not wear safety belts," said Trooper Pete Norwood. "I can't believe this type of information doesn't scare people into wearing one or in the very least, encourage them to buckle up their children."

Norwood said troopers will participate in the statewide annual America Buckles Up Children traffic safety campaign that kicks off on Monday, November 20 and ends the following Sunday.

"It's senseless as an adult to not wear a safety belt, but not buckling up your children is criminal," said Norwood. "We want to remind drivers that a new law went into effect on November 1 requiring children under the age of 13 to wear safety belts regardless where they are seated in the vehicle."

While children under the age of four are still required to be in a federally approved child restraint system, the previous law required only children age four and five to wear a safety belt while in the vehicle. The new law has raised that age to include all children under 13.

"Often times, children are better at remembering to wear their safety belts than their parents. They may not necessarily consider that it's the law, but have learned that it's something they are supposed to do. Whatever the case, we're thrilled with this learned behavior in these children," said Norwood.

The ABC traffic safety campaign targets children and adults alike.

"Thanksgiving is the highest traveled holiday of the year," said Norwood. "Parents will load their children in the car and head to grandma's house, and we are encouraging everyone to buckle up."

The 1999 fatality count during the holiday was down from 21 in 1998, an 18-year high. Three of last year's fatality crashes that killed 11 people were because the driver failed to stop or yield. Two crashes were due to unsafe speed, one was driver fatigue and one unsafe lane change. Drivers of two of the crashes were charged with driving under the influence of alcohol.

"People died because the driver was irresponsible or just plain inattentive," said Norwood. "And if you don't know by now that drinking and driving don't mix, you shouldn't be behind the wheel."

Troopers will be required to report all traffic-related statistics in conjunction with the long-running Combined Accident Reduction Effort or Operation CARE program immediately following the holiday weekend.

"Troopers will be out in full force in an effort to reduce the number of traffic deaths," said Norwood. "Enforcement goes hand-in-hand with education. There's no excuse for Oklahoma's drivers to abuse their driving privilege by being uneducated. Know the rules of the road before you travel this weekend."

As is evidenced in the causes for the 1999 holiday fatality crashes, drivers should maintain their speed in accordance with the posted limit, follow at safe distances, make careful and prudent lane changes and make a complete stop before proceeding cautiously through stop or yield signs as required.