Troopers warn drivers to slow down

The Oklahoma Highway Patrol is encouraging drivers to slow down as they travel during the Memorial Day holiday weekend that kicks off summer travel.

"The number one cause of traffic fatalities continues to be unsafe speed," said Second Lieutenant Brandon Kopepasah. "We want people to drive the speed limit this weekend because there will be a lot of traffic out there."

Since July 2000, only three OHP monthly fatality reports recorded a different cause surpassing unsafe speed as the number one reason for traffic deaths. In May 2002, November 2002 and February 2003, failure to stop or yield surpassed unsafe speed claiming the highest number of lives during those months.

Kopepasah says the second and third top causes for traffic deaths interchange more often.

"Failure to stop or yield is the second-leading cause followed by traveling left of center or making an illegal pass, but unsafe speed dominates as the number one cause for traffic deaths" he said. "Thousands of Oklahomans will flock to area lakes, and we urge them to just slow down and enjoy the trip to and from their destinations. It could mean their lives."

Last year eight people died during the Memorial Day holiday on Oklahoma's roads.

"That that's the lowest number of deaths for that holiday since 1997 when there were six," said Kopepasah. "The good news is that fatalities have been on the decline this year with a total of 206, a decrease of 28 the same time last year."

In addition to that number, 14 died as a result of the I-40 bridge collapse near Webbers Falls. Those deaths were ruled as drownings. No other drownings or fatalities on Oklahoma's lakes were reported.

"We were sorry about the tragedy that occurred last year but are thankful there were no other deaths to report," said Trooper Tony Nelson. "Lake Patrol troopers will be out in full force this weekend. We will be looking for boat registrations, life jackets, fire extinguishers; any safety violation. Also it is illegal for children under 12 to operate personal watercraft vessels, and we will be checking for alcohol."

He said troopers will be on area lakes available for boat inspections and checking for proper equipment.