Handcuffs, car keys, alcohol

Oklahoma’s Drunk Driving Realities

Drunk drivers claimed the lives of 170 people in Oklahoma in 2013. Five of those fatalities happened in Cleveland County.

The three major summer holidays-Memorial Day, Fourth of July and Labor Day-can be some of the deadliest on Oklahoma roads and highways. This is due in part to a large number of people travelling at that time but behavioral choices, such as drinking and driving, can also exacerbate this situation. However, it is important for Norman-area residents to be aware that these risks exist each and every day, on every road or street.

The danger is everywhere

It is equally important to realize that the danger is seen throughout Oklahoma, including in Norman. Information supplied by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration for 2013 shows that only six counties experienced more drunk driving deaths than Cleveland County. Detailed data includes the following:

  • In Cleveland County, 21 people died in motor vehicle accidents and five of those victims were killed by drunk drivers.
  • In Garfield, Rogers and Canadian Counties, six people each died in accidents involving alcohol.
  • Seven drunk driving fatalities happened in Delaware County.
  • Oklahoma County was the location of 14 deaths in drunk driving crashes.
  • Tulsa County led the state with 22 vehicular fatalities associated with alcohol.

Statewide, a total of 678 people died in all automobile accidents. Of those deaths, 170 happened in accidents involving alcohol.

Real-life examples

A 30-year old man was arrested on DUI charges last December after he crashed into a fence and landscaping at a home in Norman. According to the News9.com report, his blood alcohol content was measured at 0.09 percent.

While no injuries were noted in the above accident, the same is sadly not true of a crash near an I-35 on ramp at West State Highway 9. This News9.com story indicated that a 29-year old motorcyclist was hit and killed by a drunk driver in an SUV. The 24-year old SUV driver has been charged with both a DUI and manslaughter in the case.

A NewsOK.com article highlights the reality that drugs can also cause serious impairment among drivers. This past spring, a jury recommended fines up to $9,000 and 11 years in jail for a woman convicted of killing an eight-year old girl. The death resulted from a car crash in which the defendant was found to be driving under the influence of Xanax. Her police photograph lists the charge as a DUI-D with great bodily harm.

Can it improve?

A Fox23.com article discussed the challenges that Oklahoma has faced in preventing repeat DUI offenses. While people convicted of these charges can face both administrative and criminal consequences, some people are able to avoid the administrative penalties. Also a problem is the number of drivers who operate vehicles even without a license. A new program will be tested in Norman that will focus on how to prevent this from happening.

Help for accident victims

Many people can be affected by a drunk driving accident. This obviously includes the injured or killed victims directly but also their family members. People who have suffered due to a drunk driver should seek help from a lawyer.