Lawton_More than 700,000 Oklahomans are expected to hit the roadways this Christmas holiday and it's even more than last year. AAA says despite the ongoing ice storm clean up efforts across the state, people are anxious to get on the road for the holidays. So, 7News hit the highways to see how troopers are preparing for the stampede that begins Friday.
It's rookie Trooper Rusty Russell's first time to patrol Oklahoma's highways on the Christmas and New Years holidays. Just like everyone else, he says he needs to be ready for anything - mainly irresponsible drivers. "Speeders and illegal lane changes - and following to closely," he says. And, with the possibility of winter weather blowing in on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, drivers need to be extra cautious - or be handed a gift they don't want to receive.
"People need to slow down when weather gets bad to reduce their following distance and allow more time to get where you are going," says Russell. He says there's a lot of construction going on as well - both on I-44 and I-35 so people need to take this into account too. Speeds will be slower and fines will be doubled.
With this time of year, while most of us are enjoying family time, more troopers like Russell will be out patrolling the highways to keep drivers safe. "Away from our families it's tough. Knowing we're keeping people safe to get where they are going - it's alright to be away from family," he says.
Numbers of travelers hitting the skies are also up from last year. The Lawton Fort Sill Regional Airport has reached maximum capacity for all flights for the next three days. They expect some relief on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, though, and say they are prepared if weather becomes a factor.