It's a combination that can prove deadly: Youth and high speed.
Of the 2,177 drivers ticketed for topping 100 mph on Oklahoma roads in the past two and a half years, more than half were younger than age 25.
Meanwhile, drivers in that age range made up 19 percent of the 696 fatalities on Oklahoma roadways in 2011 and a similar percentage in 2010, according to the Oklahoma Highway Safety Office.
The most frequent contributing factor in such fatal crashes? Unsafe speed.
“When I came back from Vietnam, I thought I had seen everything possible in the destruction of the human body,” said former Oklahoma Highway Patrol Chief Jerry Cason. “I had no idea that years later as a state trooper, I would see the senseless slaughter that occurs on our highways day in and day out.”
Cason, who retired in 2007 after 26 years with the patrol, now teaches “Alive at 25” classes for the Oklahoma Safety Council, where he emphasizes to young motorists that vehicles are 2,000- to 3,000-pound missiles cruising down the road.
“It's kind of like a big bullet. It has the ability to pass through other cars and enter innocent people,” Cason said.
Cason said he teaches students that speeding, driving distracted and being careless behind the wheel are all life-threatening decisions.
“We have such an uninformed and uneducated driving force out there,” he said.
The youngest speeder in the records reviewed by The Oklahoman was a 15-year-old Pauls Valley girl who was ticketed for driving 100 mph in March 2011. She pleaded no contest and paid a $135 fine and court costs. The average age of the 100 mph speeders was 28.3 years. The oldest speeder was 85.
Cason said a possible solution to the issue of problem speeders might include mandatory driver's education classes for new drivers, competency reviews for current drivers and court-ordered driving classes for bad drivers.
“I don't care how much you want to spank the people with tickets or minor jail time, what's important is to educate the people about the consequences of their decisions,” he said.