Memorial Day Press Release - May 2012

With lower fuel prices and favorable weather forecasted, State Troopers are ready to safeguard the state over the holiday weekend.

Oklahoma Highway Patrol troopers will hit the roads with vigilance over the Memorial Day weekend in an effort to keep travelers safe. "Memorial Day weekend fatalities have been on a steady decline the past three years and we would like to see the trend continue," said Colonel Kerry Pettingill, Chief of the Oklahoma Highway Patrol.

During the Memorial Day weekend and in hopes of keeping roadways safe, State Troopers will be participating with "Buckle Up America Week" & "Click-it-or-Ticket" enforcement campaigns, as well as "Operation C.A.R.E." (Combined Accident Reduction Effort) which focuses on speed and driving under the influence, as well as safety belt violations. As May is also Motorcycle Safety Month, Highway Patrol officials are also requesting motorists to be especially watchful for riders over the holiday weekend, through the end of the month; as well as every day.

Presently, the state has 40 fewer fatalities than last year at 219, compared to 259 in 2011. While fifteen traffic fatalities occurred during the 2008 Memorial Day holiday, 2009, 2010 and 2011 resulted in decreases. "This is exactly what we want to see, and we'd like to see the numbers continue downward through the end of the year," said Pettingill.

2008:        587               15
2009:        612               7
2010:        490               9
2011:        423               7

Not only are troopers expecting high volumes of traffic on state roads, but increased boating on state lakes is anticipated as well.

Eighty percent of boating fatalities involved operators with no boating safety education. Knowing boating laws and navigational rules before you go to the lake can help prevent costly and tragic accidents. Whether on the road or on the water, a designated driver makes sense. Alcohol affects people to a greater degree when stressors such as boat noise, water motion, and constant exposure to heat and sunlight are added.

Every vessel is required to carry one U.S. Coast Guard approved wearable life jacket for each person on board. Life jackets must be in good serviceable condition, fit the person who intends to wear it and be readily accessible.

Children 12 - 16 years of age are required by law to have a "Boating Safety" class before operating a personal watercraft and / or a motorboat in excess of 10 horse-power, and passengers 13 years of age or younger are required to wear a life jacket on boats 26 feet or less in length when the vessel is underway. "Life jackets are like safety belts - they can save your life," said Pettingill.

Boaters should remember that Senate Bill 324 changed the blood alcohol level from 0.10 to 0.08 on the water which makes it the same as the road. This also affects implied consent where boaters are required to provide a breath or blood test if they are arrested for BUI, or Boating Under the Influence.

Boaters can save themselves time and frustration by doing their own safety check before going to the water, making sure they have all the required safety equipment, Pettingill said.

The four day Memorial Day weekend will begin on Friday, May 25th and extends through midnight, Monday, May 28, 2012.