New Report Shows Frightening Rise In Drunk-Driving Crashes In Oklahoma


Saturday, September 14th 2013, 11:13 pm
By: News On 6


According to a recently-released report from News on 6 partner Oklahoma Watch, Oklahoma is seeing a rise in drunk-driving crashes, while other states are not.

The report found nationwide, numbers fell over a 20-year period when it comes to fatal wrecks involving alcohol; but those numbers in Oklahoma are going in a different direction.

The state saw a 10 percent increase in alcohol-related fatal car crashes over an 18-year period. When it comes to just fatal crashes, Oklahoma had the ninth-highest rate of traffic deaths in 2011.

Steve Kunzweiler with the Tulsa County Prosecutor's Office says it's difficult for him to understand the rise in the numbers.

"There's a bigger and deeper issue. Why is it that somebody is choosing after so many years of education to get back on the road knowing full well that they shouldn't be doing it? It's hard for me to even imagine," Kunzweiler said.

Experts interviewed in Oklahoma Watch's report were also puzzled as to why the state saw an increase in fatal traffic accidents, despite the fact the state has implemented the same laws as states that saw decreases in fatalities.

Jessi Scott works with the Victims' Impact Panel of Oklahoma. She and other victims share their stories affected by the consequences of drunk driving.

 

"It's all a process. We just have to put our foot down."

Local law enforcement says it's not giving up its fight to curb the high fatality numbers.

"We want to hold as many people responsible, not to charge as many people as possible," said Erik Smoot with the Oklahoma ABLE (Alcoholic Beverage Laws Enforcement) Commission. "We want people to know that these crimes have been committed, and hopefully this will reduce people from committing those crimes in the future."

Kunzweiler agrees.

"If you kill somebody, if you injure somebody in our community because you made the choice -- the selfish choice -- to get behind the wheel, you're going to prison."

Governor Mary Fallin currently has a commission working to tackle the state's high alcohol-related traffic deaths.