State troopers strive to reduce holiday traffic deaths

Oklahoma Highway Patrol officials reported eight fatalities during the 2000 Labor Day holiday weekend, reflecting no change from the 1999 holiday.

"Five of the victims were not wearing safety belts," said Second Lieutenant Chris West. "We can't stress enough the importance of buckling up, and troopers will be out in full force this weekend to enforce this law."

Troopers will be patrolling from the air to catch speed violators and on Oklahoma's lakes in an effort to reduce the number of holiday deaths. The Oklahoma Lake Patrol reported two deaths during the 2000 holiday, one alcohol-related death as the result of a vessel crash and the other was a drowning.

"Thousands of Oklahomans will flock to area lakes and we want to encourage them to follow some simple guidelines while boating," said First Lieutenant Stan Roberts, commander of the Lake Patrol Section.

He said boaters should be sure their vessels have the required equipment before going on the water. There must be a personal flotation device or life jacket for each person on board, a fire extinguisher for vessels using flammable liquid as fuel, navigation lights if they are on the water after sunset and children age 12 and under are required to wear life jackets on all vessels under 26 feet in length.

"It's wise to keep a proper lookout while underway," said Roberts. "The majority of boat crashes are the result of a collision between two vessels. Water and alcohol don't mix. Stressors on the water such as the glare of the sun and the heat may intensify the effects of alcohol."

Authorities recommend a designated operator and they warn people to watch for children at all times while they are near the water.

"The highway patrol be on the alert to shut down speeders and drunk drivers," said West. "Last year five of the holiday traffic deaths were alcohol-related with the majority of the crashes due to speed."

The OHP will be participating in the Combined Accident Reduction Effort or Operation C.A.R.E. which is an international enforcement and education effort aimed at reducing the number of deaths through safety belt, speed and DUI enforcement.