Troopers participate in traffic safety campaign during holiday

Four people died during the July 4th holiday weekend last year. That's up from one death in 2001, a 16-year low. Of the four deaths in 2002, one was a pedestrian, one a motorcyclist and two were drivers of vehicles.

"Two of last year's deaths were due to excessive speed," said First Lieutenant Chris West. "Speed continues to be the number one cause of traffic deaths in Oklahoma. Troopers will be on the look out for speed violators this weekend as we participate in the Combined Accident Reduction Effort with states throughout the nation."

The CARE program is a traffic safety campaign geared toward decreasing the number of deaths on the nation's interstates and highways. Specifically, the effort targets speeders, driving under the influence and those not wearing safety belts.

"This program allows us to track the cause and number of deaths during most holidays throughout the year," said West. "Troopers throughout the nation compile their statistics and submit that information to a sort of clearinghouse that compiles a report. With the follow-up report, we are able to target problem areas and concentrate on minimizing them."

It's no surprise that a high number of travelers head to state lakes in Oklahoma.

"Last year we reported no deaths on Oklahoma's state lakes," said Second Lieutenant Terry Morris. "But because the fourth of July is one of three holidays that people flock to the lake, we continue to urge boaters to be safe."

Morris said that boaters - including personal watercrafters - should be aware of the equipment that is required by law. Children 12 and under are required to wear a personal flotation device, or life jacket, at all times the vessel is underway. A fire extinguisher, sounding device, lights if you're on the water after sunset or before sunrise, and life jackets for each person on board are required equipment.

"We also want boaters to be aware of their surroundings," said Morris. "With the recent excess in rain, there is an increase in what we consider wash-offs or debris such as logs floating around. Normally where you might see a tree stump sticking out of the water, there might now be a higher level of water covering it up. This could prove to be a very dangerous situation, so boaters be aware of your surroundings."

Morris said they hope to help get the word out on a new law that effects Oklahoma boaters. No child under 12 years of age should operate any vessel 10 horsepower or more, or sail-powered vessel 16 feet or greater in length, unless accompanied by a 16-year-old person.

"Used to, even a 3-year-old could operate a vessel because there was no age limit," said Morris. "Now you have to be at least 12 and accompanied by a 16-year-old. A more mature person will be observing them to make sure they follow the law, while being safe to themselves and others out on the water."