TULSA, Okla. — Law enforcement is asking drivers to be careful on roadways after seeing an increase in traffic deaths.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, there was a 10 percent increase in traffic deaths in the first part of this year and it’s no different here in the Sooner State.
Oklahoma Highway Patrol Trooper Eric Foster said, so far, there are 57 more traffic fatalities in Oklahoma this year compared to last year.
“On state highways, even our municipalities and small municipalities are reporting more fatalities in areas where they had not seen them very much in the past," Foster said.
In the City of Tulsa, police say there have already been more traffic fatalities this year than all of last year.
“Right now, we’re already sitting at 47 for the calendar year," Lt. Paul Madden, traffic safety coordinator for the Tulsa Police Dept. "The yearly average is, for 12 months, is usually about 45. And we’ve exceeded that already this calendar year.”
There are many reasons for the increase in traffic deaths from speeding to bad driving habits. Foster said with fewer people traveling early in the pandemic, some of those on the road started to speed more and became aggressive drivers.
He said they’ve also seen a spike in intoxicated drivers over the past 18 months. He said that accounts for a large portion of these crashes.
“Intoxicated driving other than alcohol, so other intoxicants, maybe legal substances even, are surpassing alcohol DUIs," Foster said.
Both OHP and TPD are working to make roadways a safer place.
TPD brought back its traffic safety coordinator position this month, which is filled by Lt. Madden.
“Chief Franklin saw the increase and decided that we had to do something inside the department to be very specific to address the problems and keep the problems from occurring again," Madden said.
Meanwhile, OHP is battling a staffing shortage while spreading out troopers where it can.
“We’re doing special emphasis where we’ll take troopers that are off work and have them come in to work a specific area at a specific time to try to control these numbers," Foster said.
Distracted driving is another factor in some of these crashes. Trooper Foster said not to mess with anything that takes your eyes off the road. Driving safe protects not only you but also those around you.
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