4th of July

Department of Public Safety officials are urging Oklahomans to make SAFETY their primary concern over the 4th of July weekend.

With July 4th on a Monday this year, the number of people traveling may increase. Some people will take Friday off in order to extend the holiday and the Oklahoma Highway Patrol and the Patrol's Marine Enforcement Division will be taking steps to make this holiday a safe one. "Considering Oklahoma experienced ten traffic-related fatalities during last year's Fourth of July holiday period, we're planning to ramp-up our efforts this year to insure we don't have a repeat," said Colonel Kerry Pettingill, Chief of the Oklahoma Highway Patrol.

The Highway Patrol will participate in Operation C.A.R.E. (Combined Accident Reduction Effort), an international traffic enforcement effort. These operations focus our attention on drinking drivers, speeding, seat belt and child passenger restraint usage. "For those who choose to travel, we encourage them not to rush, but take their time and plan ahead in order to arrive safely to their destination," said Chief Pettingill.

Last year there were 577 crashes during the four-day holiday weekend; 67 of which were alcohol related, resulting in 10 fatalities; including one motorcyclist, and two ATV riders. Of the 10 fatalities during last year's July 4th holiday, 4 of the crashes were alcohol related. The contributing factors in the collisions were alcohol, speed and left-of-center. Also, only 50% of the fatality victims were using safety belts at the time of the collision, and neither of the ATV operators were wearing helmets.

"We're planning several special enforcement campaigns for the weekend, and strongly encourage those who choose to drink, NOT to drive; but to look for the responsible alternatives, like calling a taxi, using a designated driver, or just staying home," Said Pettingill.

Lake conditions are prime for a busy 4th of July holiday. With the long weekend and good weather conditions projected, the Patrol's Marine Enforcement Unit is anticipating a busy weekend.

Boaters are reminded to "know before you go". if your boat is mechanically sound and properly equipped with the required equipment: Personal Floatation Devices (life jackets for each person on board); lights; sounding device (whistle or horn); fire extinguisher (if your boat utilizes flammable liquid); current registration (with registration paperwork on board).

"The most important thing boaters can take with them is common sense. The majority of boating mishaps involve two-vessel collisions. Nationally, more people die in alcohol-related boating collisions during the 4th of July weekend than any other weekend of the year," said Chief Pettingill. "Last year in Oklahoma over the 4th of July there were six boating incidents resulting in four injuries, and zero fatalites."

Citizens are encouraged to review the laws relating to boating safety on state waterways:
  • No one under 12 years of age may solely operate a personal watercraft (JetSki, Wetbike, SeaDoo, etc.)
  • One appropriately sized coast guard approved life jacket for every person in the boat.
  • New legislation reduces BAC level to .08 for operating a vessel under the influence (Same as drivers).

Chief Pettingill urges boaters to use caution and observe navigation rules in congested areas on the water. "The Patrol will use saturation patrols on area lakes this weekend, just as we will on the roadways; so we encourage boaters to operate their vessels responsibly," Pettingill said.