Oklahoma drivers reportedly took the safer route for New Year’s Eve celebrations this year, avoiding any fatality crashes.
Oklahoma Department of Public Safety Spokeswoman Sarah Stewart said the Oklahoma Highway Patrol did not work any fatality collisions on New Year’s Eve 2019— a pleasant report for officials following last year’s five fatality crashes between Dec. 29, 2017 and Jan. 1, 2018.
Stewart said two of the fatality crashes reported last year were believed to have been alcohol and drug related.
Over the course of the last 10 years, Stewart said OHP has only worked four years without any fatalities reported during a 12-hour period between Dec. 31 and Jan. 1.
A total of 20 fatality accidents have been reported on New Year’s Eve over the last decade — the majority of which were alcohol related. Stewart said 15 of those fatality accidents involved impaired drivers.
While it’s difficult for officials to pinpoint why there were no fatality collisions worked this year, Stewart suggested increased efforts to educate the public as a possible contributing factor.
“We hope that the public information that we’ve been doing helps out,” Stewart said. “We’ve really been trying to get the troopers out there and educate people about having a plan on New Year’s Eve.”
Increased access to and awareness about ride share apps such as Lyft and Uber, as well as other alternatives to getting behind the wheel, may have also played some part in the lack of fatal accidents. “We’d hope that a lot of the education is sinking in and people are listening and realizing,” Stewart said.
While no fatalities were reported during the New Year’s Eve holiday this year, OHP did respond to eight injury collisions and 19 non-injury collisions between Dec. 31, 2019 and Jan. 1, 2020.
One injury collision and one non-injury collision were reported within the local OHP field troop, which includes Carter, Love, Marshall, Johnston, Murray, Garvin and Pontotoc Counties.
Stewart said OHP is still determining how many accidents may have been caused by impaired driving and how many arrests for driving under the influence were made during New Year’s.
New Year’s Eve was like any other day for local law enforcement, including the Ardmore Police Department and Carter County Sheriff’s Office. Alcohol and drug related arrests remained around average rates and Sheriff Chris Bryant said the night was pretty quiet for officers at the sheriff’s department.
On Jan. 1, APD reported one public intoxication arrest, one disturbing the peace arrest, one actual physical control of a vehicle while under the influence (alcohol) arrest and one drug possession arrest (meth). One DUI was reported on Jan. 2.
“I think the deal is, and what we really pushed this New Year’s Eve, is to have that plan,” Stewart said. “If you’re going to go out and celebrate for any reason, or just going out to dinner — anything. Make those plans before hand so you’re not caught in a situation that potentially changes your life forever and somebody else’s life forever.”