Troopers urge Oklahomans to drive safe during holiday

Oklahoma Highway Patrol reports one traffic fatality during the 2001 Independence Day holiday, a 17-year low.

"That's down from a total of six in 2000 and 12 the year before that," said First Lieutenant Chris West. "Although that's good news, unfortunately we continue to experience an increase in the overall fatality count this year."

As of Monday, July 1, the statewide traffic fatality count for 2002 was 307 compared to 299 the same date last year. The OHP expects a higher number of travelers this weekend.

"With the Fourth of July falling on Thursday, we anticipate people will take off work on Friday to enjoy a four-day holiday" said West. "This will increase the number of people on the road."

The cause of last year's fatality crash was speeding which continues to be the number one cause for fatal crashes.

"I don't think people are grasping the fact that higher speeds can increase your chances of being killed or sustaining critical injury," said West. "People are anxious to arrive at their holiday destinations so they drive faster."

Authorities expect Oklahomans to flock to lakes throughout the state as this is one of the three biggest boating holidays.

"Thousands of travelers will choose go to state lakes to spend their holiday," said First Lieutenant Stan Roberts.

Last year there were two drownings and 14 injuries as the result of eight vessel crashes on Oklahoma's lakes. Two of the crashes were alcohol-related.

"Just as drinking and driving don't mix, neither do drinking and boating," said Roberts. "We also want to remind boaters to outfit their vessels with the proper equipment including life jackets or personal flotation devices for every passenger on board and a throwable device. Also, each vessel must have a sound device like a whistle or bell and boats with engines that run on gas must have a fire extinguisher."

Roberts said children 12 and under must wear life jackets when the boat is underway.

Troopers will participate in the Combined Accident Reduction Effort with law enforcement agencies across the nation.

"This is basically a combined effort organized to reduce the number of vehicle crashes and fatalities," said West. "The CARE program has been in effect since 1977."