Usually when the words "Oklahoma", "Texas", and "Team" are used in the same sentence, there are upside down university logos involved. This time, the partnership is a matter of life and death.
The Oklahoma Highway Safety Office has partnered with the Texas Department of Transportation's Behavioral Traffic Safety Team, to tackle impaired driving in and around Texas County, Oklahoma and Sherman County, Texas.
"After being contacted by a representative from Texas, we decided to take a closer look at what's going on in Texas County," said Cody McDonell, communications manager for the Oklahoma Highway Safety Office. "We realized that a lot of the problems Texas was having may have started in Oklahoma, so we wanted to address that."
After a few emails and phone calls, a plan was set. A targeted social media campaign was launched in the last week of August around Texas County. The message was simple, let's ENDUI.
The Oklahoma Highway Patrol and the Texas Department of Public Safety will be sending additional units to the Texas/Oklahoma border near Texas County, Oklahoma and Sherman and Hansford Counties in Texas to look for impaired drivers.
"This partnership with Texas DPS is just another great example of our states working together towards a common goal," said Lieutenant Chris Arnall of the Oklahoma Highway Patrol, "We will have extra troopers in Texas County on Friday and Saturday nights. We will be joined by the Texas County Sheriff's Office, as well as other local police departments. Texas will have their troopers hitting the roads in and around Sherman County, Texas looking for impaired drivers, as well."
In 2019, there were 23 injury crashes in Texas County, Oklahoma which resulted in two deaths. Both of those deaths were in alcohol or drug-related crashes.
"100 percent of the traffic fatalities in Texas County last year involved some sort of impairment; that is simply unacceptable," said McDonell.
Texas has seen a marked increase in fatality and injury crashes in 2020.
“At only halfway into 2020, there were already six crashes resulting in five fatalities in Sherman County, Texas,” says Sonja Gross, public information officer for the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT). “This nearly matches the six crashes and eight fatalities for all of 2019."
It's not just impaired drivers that are a concern in this area, seat belt use is also traditionally low in rural parts of Oklahoma. According to the Oklahoma Highway Patrol, two children were killed in a crash in Texas County earlier this year who were not properly restrained.
"It's important for people to pay attention while driving, but to also make sure they're buckled up and have their kids properly restrained," said Lt. Arnall.
The partnership between Oklahoma and Texas is rooted in a common goal; to save lives.
"Our goal at TxDOT is to bring that number down to zero as part of our #EndTheStreakTX campaign; educating drivers on the importance of making good decisions, like not drinking and driving,” said Gross.
The multi-state high-visibility patrols will take place in the evening of Friday, Sept. 11 and Saturday, Sept. 12. For more information from the Oklahoma Highway Safety Office, contact Cody McDonell at the information listed above. To reach Sonja Gross with TxDOT, email Sonja.Gross@txdot.org. Interviews with the Oklahoma Highway Patrol can be arranged by contacting Trooper Mystal Perkins at Mystal.Perkins@dps.ok.gov.