How Safe Have Oklahomans Been At The Lake This Summer?

Monday, September 7th 2009, 7:53 pm
By: News On 6

By Lori Fullbright, The News On 6

UNDATED -- Thousands of people went to Oklahoma lakes this year, and now that the book is finally closed on the summer, statistics come in on how safe everyone was.

Thirty-one people have drowned on Oklahoma lakes this year. There were 59 boating accidents and of those, seven people died. There were also eight or nine near drownings, and Trooper Danny Choat who patrols Lake Eufaula says alcohol is often involved.

"Alcohol is three times more effective on the water than it is on the land, because of the natural stressors," Trooper Danny Choat said.

"So one can of beer equals three if you're in your house. And they just need to be responsible if they're out here boating."

Trooper Choat says the other two big mistakes that can be deadly on the water are people not paying attention and not having good workable life jackets in their boats -  wearing them.

He says he believes people know the laws, but once they get on the lakes they don't always take the time to follow them.

"I don't think it's a matter of not knowing the law," Choat said.  "I think when they get to the lake they've had - especially today the economy like it is - they get to the lake and let their hair down and forget all of their worries. The next thing you know, they get complacent and forget the law. They just forget and let it go."

Trooper Choat, who patrols Lake Eufaula, believes 95% of all the fatal accidents on Oklahoma lakes are preventable if people would just follow the basic safety rules, which is why troopers say they're busier than ever.

"We're not out here to write a bunch of tickets, that's not what it's about," Trooper Danny Choat said. "We're out here to try to save somebody's life."

Troopers say another big problem they're seeing getting worse every year has nothing to do with safety. It is all the littering.

They're finding trash everywhere, and they say if we're not going to take care of our lakes, why do we even have them?