Tahlequah Daily Press

Local News

May 23, 2014

Officials warn against holiday drinking, driving

TAHLEQUAH — Summer unofficially kicks off this weekend, and warm weather is expected to lure thousands of visitors to area lakes and rivers.

Memorial Day weekend often spurs locals and visitors to celebrate with alcohol, and law enforcement agencies will be on the lookout for anyone who might make the decision to drink and drive.

“The Memorial Day holiday weekend should be a special time for families to enjoy,” said Oklahoma Highway Patrol Chief Rick Adams. “Troopers will be working to enforce state traffic laws, as well as lend assistance where needed.”

Last year, seven people died in Oklahoma crashes over the holiday weekend.

Troopers are also participating in the annual “Click It or Ticket” campaign and “Operation CARE” – Combined Accident Reduction Effort, which focuses on speed and driving under the influence, plus seat belt violations.

Authorities from the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office and Tahlequah Police Department will be working to keep motorists safe over the holiday.

Cherokee County Undersheriff Jason Chennault and Police Chief Nate King both urged drivers to find a designated driver if alcohol is part of the weekend celebration.

Chennault said extra deputies will be out to observe traffic over the holiday, and several will be working through an enforcement grant targeting drivers who get behind the wheel while intoxicated.

King will have officers on patrol, working extra hours through a DUI grant. He said anyone who drinks and can’t find a ride home, within the city limits, should call the Tahlequah Police Department, and an officer will give that person a ride home.  He said emergency calls will receive priority, so there could be a wait.

Aside from high volumes of traffic on state roads, authorities believe boaters will be out in force.

According to troopers, boaters should be aware of a recent bill that changed the blood-alcohol level from .10 to .08 on the water.

Every vessel is also required to carry a U.S. Coast Guard-approved, wearable life jacket for each person on board. Passengers 13 and younger are required to wear a life jacket on boats 26 feet or less in length when the vessel is underway.

Chuck Mai, a spokesman for AAA Oklahoma, said the agency is once again offering its Tipsy Tow service to those who should not be driving because of their intake of alcohol.

Drivers receive a free ride home, along with their car, under the program.

“Let’s face it: Holidays are a time to celebrate, and social drinking is often a big part of that,” Mai said in a press release.

“But the sad truth is that alcohol continues to play a role in far too many crashes on Oklahoma’s roadways. Tipsy Tow is an easy alternative. It’s free, confidential and open to AAA members and non-members alike.”

Tipsy Tow is available from 6 p.m. Friday, May 23, through 5 a.m. Tuesday, May 27 in Tahlequah, Muskogee, and other Oklahoma cities. Call 800-222-4357 and ask for the Tipsy Tow program.

Mai said the AAA will give the driver, one more person, and the car a ride home within a 15-mile radius from the point of pick up.

jnewton@tahlequahdailypress.com

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