Almost every time a holiday rolls around, someone gets injured or dies - and usually, the tragedy could have been prevented.
Thursday and Friday, countless visitors will begin rolling into town, steaming down State Highway 10 to enjoy some time on the Illinois River. Countless more will cruise up S.H. 82, looking for spots to camp on Lake Tenkiller, or ramps where they can put their boats into the water and ski, fish or just lounge around in the sun. And at least at this point, the forecast looks perfect for recreation.
If only other conditions were perfect - if drivers, boaters and floaters would take precautions to ensure they and everyone else they encounter will make it safely home after the weekend.
Folks who pay attention to reports from the Oklahoma Highway Patrol will notice that an alarming number of crashes occur when "the vehicle left the road for an unknown reason." Sometimes these are multi-vehicle crashes, but on other occasions, only a single vehicle is involved. Since troopers can generally tell if someone's been drinking, that's usually not the problem. However, the driver could have been impaired by marijuana, or far more likely these days, distracted by a cell phone.
It's illegal in Oklahoma to text and drive, and while the law has given some people hesitation, others don't care. They figure they won't get caught. And it doesn't seem to occur to them that their distraction could cost them their lives.
Distracted driving is always dangerous, but it is even more so when highways are more congested than usual. A person who drives early to work every morning on S.H. 10 might be able to get away with answering a call, even if he slips briefly across the center line, because he may not encounter many other vehicles. That won't be the case for the Fourth of July weekend.
An increasingly big problem is the "stoned" driver. Medical marijuana is legal, and thousands upon thousands of people have cards. That's fine, if they're using it for the purpose Oklahoma voters had in mind. But as with any other medication that has positive therapeutic or health uses - such as oxycodone or diazepam - it must be dosed at the proper time. And the proper time is not before getting behind the wheel of a car.
This weekend, have fun with friends and family. Contemplate the freedoms this holiday stands for. And sure, have a beer or two. But if you are the designated driver, take it slow, don't drink, don't smoke pot, and put the cell phone out of reach. Don't ruin your good time, or someone else's.