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Oklahoma sees rise in drunk driving deaths despite US trend down

Bucking the national trend, the state of Oklahoma has seen its number of drunk driving deaths rise 10 percent in the years between 1994 and 2012, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. This is despite harsher laws against driving while impaired, well-funded public education campaigns and vehicles better built to protect drivers and passengers in a crash. While deaths have gone up in Oklahoma, they have declined nationally by about 20 percent. Only six other states saw such an increase during this period.

Public officials in Oklahoma are mystified by the trend. The director of the Oklahoma Highway Safety Office said that the state is bad about reducing alcohol-related traffic deaths. He said that they couldn't get much worse. It was the same situation for total traffic fatalities in the state, which had held steady since 1994, while the US as a whole had seen its level drop 21 percent. Officials said there was nothing other states were doing that their state wasn't doing, but Oklahoma had been slow to act on some DWI prevention measures.

The reasons behind this statewide trend so far had eluded those trying to figure out the puzzle. It couldn't be a lack of seat-belt awareness campaigns or stepped-up enforcement of DWI laws, since Oklahoma had implemented both of these projects. It also put it place impaired-driving training and enforcement campaigns.

Driving under the influence of alcohol in Oklahoma can mean facing serious charges and penalties. An attorney with a background in fighting DWI charges may be able to help those accused lessen these consequences through a negotiated plea bargain with the court. Individuals facing drug-related DUI charges may be able to work with a lawyer to try to receive probation instead of prison.

Source: Tulsa World, "Oklahoma Watch: State drunken-driving deaths up despite national trend", Shaun Hittle, September 15, 2013

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