OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – The Oklahoma Department of Transportation (ODOT) released new data to KFOR on fatal accidents throughout the state from 2017 to 2021. During that five-year period, 250 motorists have died on Oklahoma highways, and nearly 8,000 motorists were injured due to distracted driving.  

A new collisions report between 2017 and 2021 shows Oklahoma fatal accidents have been slightly decreasing over the years. In 2017 the state had 51 fatal accidents, and each year it slightly decreased with 42 fatal accidents in 2021. ODOT says those distracted driving related crashes are what’s impacting most of the accidents. 

“It is going down slightly, but not enough really for us to really cheer yet… You have control of it yourself, and you’re able to have an impact on getting home safely. So, there’s a few things you can do. You want to put away all distractions every time you get behind the wheel,” said Lisa Shearer-Salim, ODOT spokeswoman. 

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The largest categories by age experiencing distracted driving fatalities are those who are between the ages of 31 and 50, and under the age of 21.  

Those age categories all saw exactly 40 fatal accidents between 2017 and 2021.  

“This is not just a young person issue… They had equal numbers of fatalities in those three age categories. So that’s a huge indicator of just how pervasive and widespread this issue is in our society,” said Shearer-Salim. 

Distracted driving fatalities still remain among the leading causes of death on the state’s highways. Other common causes of crashes include unsafe speed, driving while under the influence, driving left of center, inattention and failure to stop.  

“It’s just one of the reasons why Oklahoma is one of 48 states that has a ban on texting while driving, because we know that those cell phones are a huge cause of distraction going behind the wheel. If you take your eyes off the road for even five seconds to look at a text, that’s the same as driving the length of a football field with your eyes closed. That’s a long way. And a lot can happen in those five to ten seconds. So even though you think, oh, this is just really quick, it could mean the difference between your life and death,” said Shearer-Salim.  

The new report from ODOT also reveals more men than women are dying in distracted driving-related crashes throughout the five-year period. 

Another statistic ODOT hopes to beat is the number of people not wearing seat belts.  

“The seatbelt issue. Oklahoma currently ranks 40th in the nation for buckling up, which is not so great. We’re really encouraging drivers to think about that first and foremost before they ever even start their vehicle, because we want to see those numbers go down. We want to see our Oklahomans get to where they want to go safely… 50% of our fatalities on our highways were not buckled up,” said Shearer-Salim. 

It is important to note ODOT is still working on getting the 2022 fatal accident reports. They should have that information by this summer once all departments across the state have submitted their reports. It then it must go through a verification process.