Drunk and Drugged driving crashes are one the leading causes of death in our state. Gov. Mary Fallin says there have been about 20 Oklahomans killed each month in the last five years due to impaired driving, so she gathered a team of more than 130 different agencies to address the issue.
Inside the “BAT Mobile,” or Blood Alcohol Testing vehicle, lies the latest gadgets to check drunk drivers.
“We have these PBT's, that's preliminary breath testing devices,” said Oklahoma Highway Patrol Capt. Garrett Vowell.
“And what this does is we put these tubes here on the device and we ask the subject if they're willing to take the test and then it gives us a reading to tell if we're dealing with someone impaired with alcohol or drugs.”
There are even "Alco-censored" flashlights that detect vapors in the air with the click of a button. The four new sets of wheels are part of a statewide campaign to combat impaired driving.
"We're tackling a very important issue that affects families in our state. This will bring together the resources and make a difference in saving those lives,” Fallin said.
Fallin introduced the "ENDUI" initiative at the State Capitol on Thursday morning, with the help from OHP, the Highway Safety Office, and the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services.
“We cannot simply arrest our way out of the problem. That won't solve it. That's too late,” said Terri White, Commissioner for the Department of Mental Health. “Twelve percent of our population is addicted and dependent on the substances they are using. The average age for the first drink in Oklahoma 12 years old.”
White says Oklahoma ranks fourth in the U.S. for the number of prescriptions written.
“We have more prescriptions written in Oklahoma than almost any other state in the nation for hydrocodone, oxycodone, Vicodin,” she said.
The campaign created new public service announcements calling on bars, families and even pharmacies to hold impaired drivers accountable.
The state has four of the testing vans, which are expected to be used at upcoming DUI checkpoints, major concerts, festivals, fairs and wherever alcohol is present. It's where Vowell said drivers can expect to see the new technology, including an I.D. kiosk.
“The vehicle pulls up, they hand us the driver's license, we can swipe the driver's license here, and it will show us if they're wanted, or if their license is suspended or valid,” Vowell said.
A couple of the testing vans have already hit the streets, and so far, so good.
"Just in two operations that they've been on so far, they arrested over 337 intoxicated and impaired drivers on our streets and highways here in Oklahoma," said Col. Rick Adams, Chief of OHP.