MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

September 1, 2013

Law enforcement watch for DUI

By Thad Ayers
Phoenix Staff Writer

— Law enforcement is out in force this Labor Day weekend watching for drivers and boaters who are under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

More than 400,300 in the state are expected to travel more than 50 miles during the holiday, according to a report from AAA Oklahoma.

Wagoner Police Chief Bob Haley said officers are watching for those out partying and driving under the influence.

“We have a lot of people coming through Wagoner going to various locations,” he said, noting many are traveling to and from Fort Gibson Lake. “They come to town during the weekend and go to Walmart and get things.”

Last year there were 453 crashes involving 1,011 people, killing four and injuring 255, according to the Oklahoma Department of Public Safety.

Of those crashes, 48 were alcohol-related and involved 85 people. Two died and 17 were injured.

Muskogee Police also are stepping up enforcement. Cpl. Michael Mahan said officers will be looking for those driving under the influence, not wearing seat belts or people who are committing other traffic violations.

To prevent those on the water from getting in their vehicles and driving drunk, Lt. Greg Giles of the Oklahoma Highway Patrol said all of his troopers are patrolling Tenkiller, Fort Gibson and Oologah lakes. He said patrols also are on the Arkansas River.

“Our big thing is safety,” said Giles, who directs the area’s marine enforcement division. “We want people to come out to the lake and have a good time.”

State law allows people to drink alcohol on the water, but boat drivers are subject to the same blood alcohol levels as those driving on the roads.

“We’ve taken several people off the water and jailed them for that,” Giles said. “If we encounter anyone who’s done that this weekend, we’ll do the same as well.”

The increase in trooper presence on the waters is statewide.

He said this year there have been fewer boating and lake incidents compared to previous years. He said he hopes that trend continues.

“Many times when people drown or have near drownings, alcohol plays a factor in a lot of those,” Giles added. “Even though it's legal to have low-point beer on the boat, we want to make sure that people don't overindulge and injure themselves or others who are on the water.”

Reach Thad Ayers at (918) 684-2903 or tayers@muskogeephoenix.com.