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Oklahoma Highway Patrol Urge Holiday Drivers to be Cautious

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LAWTON, Okla._

This year in Oklahoma, as the holiday weekend ended and thousands of drivers took to the road to head home, the Oklahoma Highway Patrol said they were out in full force, and for good reason.

They said during 2012 Thanksgiving weekend; the number of traffic stops, accidents and drunk-driver stops doubled since last year. They said part of that increase is due to more troopers on patrol but say the main reason is irresponsible drivers. That's why they always urge drivers to be cautious during the holiday rush, to make sure they make it home safely.

The department made over five hundred traffic stops for speeding alone during the holiday weekend. They said there were also two car-wreck fatalities in Caddo County over the weekend as well. O-H-P said those deadly wrecks are a grim reminder of why it's so important to be alert and cautious behind the wheel, especially during the holidays when the roads are swarming with travelers.

Although Comanche County residents Terry Evans and Kelly Henderson avoided the holiday traffic this thanksgiving, they said they know all too well what driving in it is like. Evans said her trip to Oklahoma City last year was one she'd like to forget.

"It is horrible, especially in the evening, right now they've got the interstate closed down to one lane up by Mathis Brothers, that's the route we take, people weaving in and out of traffic like crazy", said Evans.

Henderson said she is always extra cautious this time of year, particularly while driving with her three-year-old son who often makes it hard to focus on what lies ahead.

"I'm telling you, my three-year-old son is a lot more of a distraction than a cell phone has ever been. Keeping him happy keeping him calm. There's a lot going on inside your vehicle, not to mention everything else going on around you", said Henderson.

Oklahoma Highway Patrol Trooper Cody Jackson said that is exactly why its important to pay close attention to your surroundings while driving; especially when the traffic is bumper to bumper.

"Everyone's going to be returning from holiday vacations, traffic will likely be congested on large thoroughfares. People need to be mindful of not following any closer than what distance allows for safe stopping distance", said Jackson.

He said although most drivers know what they're supposed to do, many do the opposite as tempers flair and their patience dwindles. However, Jackson said responsible drivers can counteract their actions by remembering these three things.

"Everyone needs to make sure they're wearing their safety belt, not following any closer than what can bring a cell phone to a stop, eliminate all distractions such as cell phones", said Jackson. 

He said if drivers who don't heed to those basic rules, could find their holiday season crashing down on you and your family.

"The holiday season is the worst time to inform someone of a fatality. And it never fails that we end up working a fatality this time of year, often due to driving under the influence as we worked one this past weekend", said Jackson.

Oklahoma Highway Patrol said the volume of traffic on the road has doubled over the past few years; meaning more people and more potentially distracted drivers.

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