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Tulsa Mayor's Summit Looks At Oklahoma's Growing Alcohol Problem

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TULSA, Oklahoma -

Alcohol – from drunk driving crashes to work injuries to health problems – costs Oklahoma taxpayers $3 billion every year.

It's not only an expensive problem, but also a deadly one.

That's why Tulsa's mayor held an alcohol awareness summit on Friday.

Tulsa County has 20 percent more drunk drivers than anywhere else in the state.

Kendra Gonzalez was a nursing assistant taking care of veterans, working two jobs and about to turn 21 when a suspected drunk driver, going the wrong way on the highway, ended her life.

"Why did this have to happen? She was so good and could've done so much for this world,” her mother Brenda said.

OZ Walker was driving on the Broken Arrow Expressway when a drunk driver, going the wrong way, hit and killed him.

"He's my best friend,” Walker said. “He was my father. I'm his only son, so we had a tight connection."

Just this week, Broken Arrow police arrested Matthew Cowan. They say he was nearly three times over the legal limit and swerving all over the road with his two young daughters standing in the backseat.

It was his third DUI arrest.

"Thirty percent of all arrests are related to alcohol,” Oklahoma Department of Mental Health Commissioner Terri White said. “That's more arrests than the index crimes which includes murder, rape and more arrests than drug crimes. Alcohol is the No. 1 reason people end up in the criminal justice system."

White said the problem starts early in Oklahoma, where the average age of a kid having their first real drink is 12, which is one reasons we rank third worst in the nation for the number of kids who drink.

"If you drink before your brain is full developed, which is between 20 and 25, you're more likely to become dependent than if you wait until your prefrontal cortex is developed,” White said.

Of course, experts say, the idea of the mayor’s summit is not to sit around and talk about this issue.

The idea is for these people to go out and make new policies and new laws so we can somehow get a handle on the growing problem in Oklahoma.

 

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