Oklahoma Driving Test To Address High Water Safety

Monday, October 5th 2009, 4:38 pm
By: News On 6

By Craig Day, The News On 6

UNDATED -- Oklahoma will soon be the first state in the nation to ask a specific question on the state driving test about what you should do if you drive up to high water.

It's seen all the time -- people driving into high water and having to be rescued from their cars. In some cases, it's a deadly mistake.

Oklahoma Highway Patrol troopers hope adding a new question about flooding will help save lives.

State troopers stress it often: a car can be swept away by less than 24 inches of running water. Yet they often see people chancing it anyway.

"We have had incidents and instances of troopers responding to injury and fatal incidents when someone has driven around barricades and into high waters," said Lt. George Brown, Oklahoma Highway Patrol.

The Department of Public Safety driver's license division will soon add a new question that deals specifically with what to do if you encounter a flooded area while driving, which seems like an easy answer -- turn around.

"Unfortunately, we still have injuries and deaths and until those stop happening, we are forced to address this specifically," said Lt. George Brown, Oklahoma Highway Patrol.

The addition of the test question was prompted in part by the death last spring of 49-year-old Kimberlyn Kendrick. Kendrick's car was swept away by flooding in Pryor. Rescue crews eventually found her car four hours later, under seven feet of water.

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Dee Robison with the Oklahoma Flood Plain Manager's Association says 80 percent of flood deaths are people in cars.

"People just think that they are safe in their cars, and they are not," said Dee Robison, Safety Advocate.

The flood safety information is already in the Oklahoma driver's manual. Troopers and safety advocates hope by actually putting it on the driver's test, it will reinforce how important the message is.

"Get it in the hearts and minds of young drivers and train them not to go in and around high water," said Lt. George Brown, Oklahoma Highway Patrol.

"People don't understand the danger of water and they don't understand that they are not safe in their vehicle," said Dee Robison.

They're still working on the specific wording of the flooding question on the driver's test. The Department of Public Safety says putting it on the exam is just the first step in a mission to save lives. Phase two will be to get legislative support to enact a law that prohibits someone from driving into high water.