OHP says increased highway deaths led to DUI patrols

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Updated: 4/26/2013 8:09 pm
A spike in teenage deaths on state highways is prompting more patrols.

The Oklahoma Highway Patrol says the number of deaths quadrupled for the month of April in one year.

FOX23's Ian Silver talked to a Bristow family about their loss, and the lessons they hope other families can learn.

Bobby Simmons was a well-liked, athletic 15-year-old in 1999. One night he let his 17-year-old friend Jeremy Tufts drive him around, even though Tufts had been drinking.

It's a night that will haunt Melissa Brandon for the rest of her life, "they said that Bobby had been involved in a crash. He did not make it and he was four miles from home."

13 years later she's still overcome by the pain of losing the oldest of her three children.

"Why did this happen? Why did this happen to him?"

As a dispatcher for the Sapulpa Police Department she knows how common it is for people to drive drunk.

“How can you live with that? How is that going to affect you if you crash into somebody and kill somebody? Just think of the whole magnitude of the responsibility that would come with that."

For Jeremy Tufts it meant 10 years in prison.

“His parents, to see him now they have to go to the Department of Corrections, I have to go to a cemetery to see my son."

April is prom season and one of the worst months for teenage deaths on Oklahoma roads.

In April of 2012, 8 teens between the ages of 16 and 19 were killed in crashes; that's the same number that had been killed in the same month the previous three years combined.

So Saturday night, the Oklahoma Highway Patrol will be all over Tulsa County looking for drunk teens.

"We'll work heavily the inner dispersal loop from 169 to 75 highway, 244 to i-44, because that's the majority of our collisions."

Whether it's speeding, swerving or a tail light out, they'll be looking for any reason to pull people over to check if they're drunk.

Captain George Brown has had the unfortunate experience of having to tell parents their child was killed in a drunk driving accident, "that is the worst thing that we can probably do in law enforcement is to notify next-of-kin, especially when it's a teenager and they have their whole life ahead of them. Unfortunately, Bobby never got to see his prom."

But with thousands of teens going to their proms this weekend Melissa Brandon hopes and prays they don't drink and drive.

"You want to live past your prom. Prom is not the only thing in your life. There are so many things after that that you have to look forward to: there's college, there's marriage, there's having kids, there's having grandkids. You wanna live to see that. You don't wanna ruin it for one night of going out getting drunk."

FOX23 looked into Oklahoma laws and found that people under age 21 can be charged with DUI if they have any alcohol in their system that means even .01 on a breathalyzer can get you arrested.

In addition to fines and community service teens caught driving drunk can lose their license until they're 21. And face prison time if anyone is hurt or killed.

OHP will be doing their saturation patrols from 7 pm Saturday night until 3 am on Sunday morning. Any kids caught driving drunk will have those cases handed over to the ABLE commission to investigate how the kids got the alcohol.

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