OKLAHOMA CITY — Legislation proposed by Rep. Brian Renegar could have a welcome impact for area officials during storms, if approved.
Renegar (D-McAlester) has proposed any motorist driving around traffic-controlled barricades into floodwaters could be subject to a stiff fine and possibly a jail sentence. With any highway or county road closed to traffic because of flooding, the legislation would make it a misdemeanor to tear down, damage or remove any traffic-control devices of barricades erected to block entry, or to drive any vehicle through, under, over, or around the barricades or otherwise to enter the closed area.
As proposed, a violation could be subject to a fine of at least $1,000. If the motorist is transporting a child 18 years of age or younger, the fine would be $2,500 and confinement to a county jail for up to a year on the grounds of child endangerment.
The proposal goes on to state a driver who disregards the proposed law would be forced to pay restitution in an amount equal to the actual cost of the emergency response and repair or replacement of any damaged or lost emergency equipment. The motorist would be liable for any damage to property, or any injury or death resulting from a violation of law.
“I think it would be a good law,” Carter County Commissioner Joe David McReynolds said. “I know Jerry (Alvord) had a guy go around a barricade and run over a bridge that was out.
“With the floods we had, people risk not only their lives but the lives of the volunteer firefighters, sheriff’s department and police officers trying to help them.”
McReynolds also highlighted State Highway 77, where Caddo Creek flooded out of its banks across the  road. He said as soon as officials stopped directing traffic, people went around the barricades or drove up a back road to do some sightseeing.
There were also issues with signs being vandalized or stolen.
“We had some we found after the flooding went down,” he said. “People had thrown them in or ran them into the water. Jerry had more of an issue where they were stolen.”
Ardmore City Manager J.D. Spohn also felt the proposed legislation held some merit in helping create safer conditions in heavy rains.
“I am in favor of anything that reinforces compliance with road closures,” he said. “We put up barricades and people drive around them and it’s very dangerous. People need to understand barricades are put up for a reason — it is to prevent a dangerous situation for not only motorists but also for first responders.”