A south central state located directly north of Texas, Oklahoma is one of the most geographically diverse states in the US. As a middling state in size and population and the fact that its largest city is only 27th largest in the US at just over 500,000 people belies the fact that it is also the 15th most expensive for car insurance. This may be due to the fact that it has the largest percentage of uninsured drivers in the US and one of the top 10 most auto fatalities per capita in the US. Car safety in Oklahoma needs to be taken seriously by drivers.
Has it All
Oklahoma has 11 distinct geographical zones, more than any other US state, which considering its size is somewhat surprising. As a driver, you are awed by forests, mountains, deserts, rivers, lakes, the Great Plains, canyons and Mesas, and prairies. The state generally slopes from its high plains in the west to the low marshes and wetlands in the southeast. However, in between there are many different ecological zones that can make for beautiful but dangerous driving conditions.
When you can drive around a state and be subjected to snow, rain, desert-like conditions and wind on the high plains, there are always issues. Drivers need to be aware of where they are travelling to within their own state to understand what type of emergency safety equipment to be carrying. With four mountain ranges in the state and its other geological variances, its weather can change very rapidly within different locations without even leaving it.
Early in the 19th Century in the state a high of 83F was reached at midday in Oklahoma City, yet by midnight of the same day a low of 17F showed how fast the temperatures can plummet when an arctic front comes into the state. The high and low for that day still stands over 100 years later. The state also lays between the humid continental climates of the central US and the semi-arid climate of the west, making it home to Tornado Alley. With an average of 62 tornadoes in a year, it has the highest prevalence of almost any location in the world.
With the possibility of snowstorms in the higher elevations, especially to the north and west, severe thunderstorms wreaking havoc at a moment’s notice and the possibility of tornadoes and wild temperature fluctuations, “Okies” need to learn to adapt to these conditions and drive defensively.
Tort Law with Modified Comparative Fault
The tradition of tort law, or at fault, rules the legal system and automotive accidents in Oklahoma. If you are involved in an accident in the state you have multiple options to reclaim your expenses. However, with over 25% of drivers in the state not having insurance and many more that are underinsured there is a possibility that even if you do litigate or make a third party claim in the state that you would not recover all your expenses. It is this reason that if at all possible the mandatory insurance requirements should be doubled or tripled in order to effectively protect your financial interests. The optional Uninsured and Underinsured coverages would also be a wise choice to protect yourself after an accident.
In a modified comparative fault state, like Oklahoma, if you are more than 50% at fault, you will not be eligible for damage awards. If you are still assigned blame under 50% you can recoup losses but your award will still be lowered by the same percentage of fault that you were assigned. For example if you were found to contribute to the severity of the accident by distracted driving and were found 40% at fault, your award damage of $10,000 to cover injury expenses would only equal $6,000 because of the lowering of your claim from your fault percentage.
Tough on DUIs
The state legislation on the Blood Alcohol Concentration limits (BAC) is on the leading edge of most states in the US. You will be charged with a Driving Under the Influence (DUI) in Oklahoma if your BAC is just 0.05%, while the national set limit is 0.08%. This lower limit is rare, but shows drivers the real consequences of drinking and driving. Penalties for DUIs over 0.08% become even harsher with mandatory jail time, large monetary fines and longer suspension times than average. Only the first DUI offense in the state is a misdemeanor while all subsequent offenses are considered felonies. A 10 year lookback period means that these offenses can pile on penalties for drivers even over a significant amount of time.
Unlike most other states that require a driver improvement course to get points deducted from your record, Oklahoma allows 2 points to be removed from your record every year, unlike the complete dissolution after 3-5 years as is normal in other states. Oklahoma also dissolves all points after 3 years if you have not had any infractions in that point of time.
This may be why their demerit point system is quicker to suspend drivers than other states with a longer lookback period as well. Only 10 points will incur a license suspension with a lookback period of 5 years.
Did You Know That…
1. With over 200 man-made lakes, it has the most of any state.
2. Cimarron County touches 4 states, the only US County to do so.
3. Teens can start driving supervised at 15 ½ years old.
4. Has more shoreline than the Gulf of Mexico.
5. If you take driver’s education you can receive an unrestricted license sooner.
6. Oklahoma produces the most iodine, alabaster and gypsum than any other state.
7. Just 0.05% will result in a DUI charge in Oklahoma.
8. Voicemail was invented in 1982 in Oklahoma.
9. A driver improvement program removes points from your driving record.
10. You have 4 options to reclaim expenses after an auto accident.