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Oklahoma Sets Sights on Lowering Traffic Fatalities in 2019

Posted on: September 18th, 2019

The year 2019 is off to a great start in Oklahoma.

According to initial reports from the Oklahoma Highway Safety Office (OHSA), traffic fatalities have been lower than usual for the first part of 2019. At present, there have only been 177 auto crash fatalities statewide since the beginning of the year. If those numbers continued, our state would be on target for a record low in fatalities. However, the sad reality is that most of the serious auto accidents and fatalities around the state often correspond to major holidays, vacations, and certain times of year.

Over the past few years, traffic fatalities in the Sooner State have actually been on a gradual uptick, as shown by official crash data.

For instance, in 2016, there were 628 fatalities statewide. The next year, in 2017, there were 657, and in 2018, 660 people lost their lives. Each year, including 2019, the Oklahoma Safety Office projects a goal for highway and traffic fatalities. For 2019, OHSO is shooting for just 646 deaths on Oklahoma roadways. This would represent a dramatic drop if successful.

The goal is admirable, but the outlook grim.

As an experienced auto accident attorney, Roger Dodd, puts it, “time will tell if those numbers really hold true. The present numbers do not likely include fatalities from Memorial Day, and there is almost always a significant spike during summer holidays like Fourth of July and Labor Day.” 

And Roger is right.

Research from the Insurance Information Institute explains that holidays account for a disproportionate number of highway fatalities each year. Nationally, the most dangerous holiday by far is actually. Thanksgiving. In most years, more people die on this day than any other single holiday. Next on the list, in order of most fatal, are Fourth of July, Memorial Day, Labor Day, Christmas Day, and finally New Year’s Day.

Considering that the majority of all traffic fatalities occur on or after Memorial Day weekend, there’s a good chance that Oklahoma’s low early fatality numbers are sadly optimistic. If 2019 is anything like past years, we are likely on a trajectory upward with even more fatalities in our future.

One final point to consider when looking at projections is where the state is hoping to be by 2021.

By that year, OHSA aims to reduce highway and traffic fatal crashes and reduce the number of deaths to 628 by 2021. While this may seem like a noble goal, it’s important to also remember that this was the number in 2016. So, effectively the state is aiming to get back to our 2016 numbers, thus illustrating just how dangerous roads have become over the past three years. As technology has increased our dependence on electronic devices, it has also increased distracted driving accidents. Likewise, cities throughout Oklahoma are seeing broad expansion, leading to more cars on the road and more crashes. Only time will tell if the state’s ambitious fatality reduction goals will come to fruition in 2019, but sadly the data suggests otherwise.