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OHP: Thanksgiving holiday weekend starts off busy for state troopers working crashes

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The holiday weekend has already been busy for Oklahoma Highway Patrol troopers, who worked 109 noninjury collisions, 53 injury collisions and two fatal crashes and assisted 60 other motorists from midnight Tuesday night through 9 a.m. Thursday, the agency said on social media.

One of those fatal crashes involved 18-year-old Saffron Durham of Vinita, who died Wednesday afternoon when her car crashed into the back of another vehicle in Craig County, the OHP reported.

The other occurred in Seminole County, where Shayla Nielsen, 34, of Konawa died on Oklahoma 59 west of Wewoka after the car she was riding in ran off the road in the rain and hit a tree about 7:15 a.m. Wednesday, troopers said.

The number of fatal crashes in the state was up 17% in 2021 over 2020, an OHP analyst told the Tulsa World last month.

However, an Oklahoma Highway Safety Office fatality report shows that the number so far this year is lower than the number at the same time last year. The number of fatal crashes worked by the Highway Patrol as of Thursday this year is 338, while last year’s was 392.

Similarly, the number of fatal crashes worked by all agencies in the state — Highway Patrol and local law enforcement — is 448 this year, compared with 546 to this time last year.

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Safety measures, such as using seat belts, can help prevent injuries and deaths when collisions do occur, Oklahoma Highway Patrol Trooper Eric Foster told the Tulsa World in October. “In Oklahoma, a majority of our (crash deaths) are a result of not being buckled in,” he added.

Last year, the 259 people who were unbuckled in a collision made up 34% of fatalities, the Tulsa World reported.

Other conditions that can make a crash fatal are driving too fast or intoxication, Foster said. “We’re seeing an uptick in wrong-way driving,” he added. “That can almost always be attributed to intoxicated driving.”

Out of the 762 traffic deaths last year, 53% involved drivers who were impaired by drugs, alcohol or both, the Tulsa World reported.

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Staff Writer

As a breaking news reporter, I cover crime and other spot news. I graduated from the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism in 2022 before joining the Tulsa World. 

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