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Final weeks to comment on ODOT’s Traffic Safety Action Plan

Posted by on August 8th, 2011 at 11:38 am

Cover of Oregon’s Traffic Safety
Action Plan.

Did you know that traffic crashes are the leading cause of death in Oregon for people under 35 years of age? Or that every year, traffic crashes in Oregon result in an estimated $2.58 billion in total economic loss — that’s about $657 dollars per Oregon resident*.

The good news is that the number and rate of injuries and fatalities on Oregon roads have been on the downswing in recent years. However, as we’ve been reminded in the past week or so, there’s a lot more work to do.

So far this year, 181 people have lost their lives while traveling on Oregon roads.

To set a framework of policies and plans to dramatically reduce the carnage on our roadways, ODOT is doing a major revamp of their Traffic Safety Action Plan. Last updated in 2004, the TSAP lays out a blueprint on how to create new policies, pass new laws, and how to spend about $48 million dollars in traffic safety funds that go through their Traffic Safety Division each year.

The process to update that plan began back in late 2009 with a series of public meetings across the state to educate the public and solicit feedback. Just last week, ODOT released their Final Public Draft of the new plan and announced that they will still accept comments until September 1st.

You can download a PDF of the latest draft here and email your comments to

I took a quick look at the plan this morning and it’s rather impressive.

Here’s the opening line of the Executive Summary (emphasis mine):

“The Oregon Transportation Safety Action Plan envisions a future where Oregon’s transportation- related death and injury rate continues to decline- we envision a day when days, then weeks and months pass with not a single fatal or debilitating injury occurs. Someday, we see a level of zero annual fatalities and few injuries as the norm.

To back up that vision, ODOT seems to be zeroing in on the three major factors in all fatal crashes in Oregon: Alcohol/drug use (38.2%), lack of seat belts (44.6%), and speed (a factor in 41.6% of fatalities).

94 specific action items are listed in the plan, including 10 “Emphasis Area Actions.”

“Implement engineering solutions for bicyclists and pedestrians” comes in at Action 3; and, among emphasis areas, “pedestrian/bicycle” is among the types of “intersection crashes” listed in the top Emphasis Area. Other notable actions include pushing for legislation that would make Oregon’s BAC limit .04 percent (instead of .08), legislation that would mandate the inclusion of helmets and lights in the sale of new bicycles, beefing up the case for enforcement, and an effort to improve and expand driver education in Oregon.

If you haven’t told ODOT how to spend their traffic safety funds, now is your last chance. For more on the state of traffic safety in Oregon, stay tuned for more coverage and read an interview I did with Traffic Safety Division Manager Troy Costales back in November.

—*Economic impact statistic comes from The National Safety Council. In their “Accident Facts, 2009 Edition” the publication lists $1,290,000 in total economic loss for each death, $68,100 for each nonfatal disabling injury, and $8,200 for each property damage crash.

NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are productive, considerate, and welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Also, if you comment frequently, please consider holding your thoughts so that others can step forward. Thank you — Jonathan

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    Paul Hanrahan August 8, 2011 at 11:59 am

    It’s simple. Enforce the laws allready on the books. Step up partols at night for alcohol abuse, and be vigilant about stopping people without seatbelts and using a cellphone (I see that every day). Lights on bike? Absolutely. Helmets, not so much. Again, the law now says kids under 16 must wear a helmet. I doubt if I see even a 50% compliance on that now, so what does more regulation do?

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    Bikesalot August 8, 2011 at 12:16 pm

    We need any new highway rumble strips to accommodate cyclists. Do NOT put them where a safe amount of shoulder width does not remain for cyclists. Do NOT make them continuous with no breaks for cyclists to cross, especially approaching intersections, bridges lacking shoulders, etc. Do NOT dig them so deep that crossing them makes loss of control likely, especially for trikes and velomobiles. The velomobile tour crossing the US from Portland had their first crashes on a bad rumble strip that caused loss of directional control.

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      John Russell (jr98664) August 8, 2011 at 2:00 pm

      Where was this? I’ve never seen a truly bad rumble strip in Oregon or Washington? Everywhere else in the country could care less. Some places in Montana, Indiana, Kentucky, etc. have rumble strips across the whole shoulder. In Ohio, Kentucky and Missouri, I often found rumble strips right in the fog lines, making the foot or two of shoulder completely unusable.

      I will give MoDOT credit for their rumble strips on I-70 out of Kansas City. They were right in line with the fog line, leaving the entire ten-foot shoulder perfectly smooth for cycling.

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    Bob_M August 8, 2011 at 12:30 pm

    “Implement engineering solutions for bicyclists and pedestrians”
    HA … Until we have a separate system of bike trails engineered solutions will fall short.

    Behavior is the problem. We have engineered solutions all over the place, but that does little to create a zietgiest of safety. People with their haste, selfishness and distractions combine to overwhelm engineered solutions. Education and enforcement of common sense regulations will change behavior and make shared roads safer.

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    Indy August 8, 2011 at 12:44 pm

    One way I’ve thought to give incentives to drivers to slow down is to offer insurance companies tax discounts if they install GPSs in each car that opts-in. The Insurance company then must pass down those savings to their end-users. The reason the current system DOES NOT work is because too many people can speed and get away with it without repercussion.

    End users benefit because it rewards good behavior.

    The system is voluntary so users that do not want cheaper insurance rates do NOT have to participate.

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    Chris I August 8, 2011 at 12:49 pm

    A few things that would help:

    – Big increase in the gas tax. Federal funding is declining, so we need a funding source from the state. This will also reduce frivolous trips and discourage large vehicles that endanger all road users
    – Weight-based registration. Same idea and outcome.
    – Stricter limits on what is “street legal” in terms of vehicle lifts. Many trucks and SUVs out there have been lifted to heights that are unsafe for them, or anyone they hit. At least one recent death can be attributed, in part, to this problem:

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    Spiffy August 8, 2011 at 12:50 pm

    mostly I agree with Paul Hanrahan that there needs to be more enforcement… I would love to see people getting tickets for following too close and failure to use turn signals… but cops sit idle on the side of the road with a radar gun hoping to catch a specific violator… I call that negligence… I’d put a cop on every corner if the budget allowed…

    just looking at the “three major factors”…

    alcohol/drug use: increase public transit so drunk people don’t have to drive… make it cool again… stop targeting roads near bars, and stop checkpoints… focus on the drunk people actually causing problems, but once they do make the penalty a lifetime suspension…

    lack of seat belts: they don’t prevent crashes, so it can remain a choice like helmets… again, no stings or checkpoints…

    speed: seems pretty easy to lower the speed limit… but that would require ODOT to “grow a pair”… I really like those speed limit signs with the “Your Speed” digital readout on them… no camera, just a reminder that you’re speeding… but again, speed doesn’t cause crashes, so back to enforcing the basics…

    basically they need to focus on preventing crashes, not on the effect of the crash…

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      Alan 1.0 August 8, 2011 at 1:40 pm

      I get you on seatbelts, although they can keep a driver behind the controls, which can help them control their vehicle, but speed…you need to explain that one. I get that simply going fast isn’t fatal, but it is a big contributor to collisions occurring and it makes collisions much more severe when they do occur.

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    Alan 1.0 August 8, 2011 at 1:30 pm

    What do folks think about requiring a rear light on bikes in addition to the existing front-light requirement? That is, actually requiring that bikes used at night have a working rear light, not simply requiring inclusion of lights at time of retail sale. Point-of-sale law for lights is silly for bikes which would only see daytime use (kickbikes, racing bikes, downhill freeride bikes, etc.), and meanwhile there’s a vast pool of existing bikes which are used at night which have either no or inadequate rear lights. I’m not a big proponent of laws which mostly keep people from being victims of their own judgement (e.g. helmets) but lights just seem like an absolute minimum precaution which can prevent collisions in the first place.

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      Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) August 8, 2011 at 1:40 pm

      I think doing more to encourage brighter lights and a rear light is a great idea.

      I’d support a law to change the bike lighting requirement to make a rear light (not just a reflector) mandatory.

      I think the state could also fund more educational programs to bike retailers and consumers about the importance of lights…. But as for actual laws, that’s something that I think would be better done at a federal level, like it is for cars.

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    captainkarma August 8, 2011 at 11:24 pm

    All cars in the US meet fed standards for area (square inches) and brightness of all lights incl tail-lights and brake-lights.

    Is their any country that requires bikes operating at night to have a rear light? Is it enforced or effective?

    If bikes are to have a rear light as well, I believe peds should have a light at night too. Why stop with bikes? Often I feel like I’m more likely to hit the ubiquitous black-hoodied drunken hipster-ped as they stumble home from too many PBRs, stepping out of the dark night into my path with no warning. And since they are entitlled to crosswalk protection, it would be my fault for hitting a gaggle of them in the dark. Lights for hipster-peds, I say!

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      Alan 1.0 August 9, 2011 at 10:34 am

      Germany requires generator-powered lights. France, Netherlands, Belgium, Denmark and probably others all require front and rear lights on bikes. Most of them require that the light is mounted on the bike itself. Some jurisdictions and sanctioning bodies require steady lights, not blinkies.

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    Ted Buehler August 9, 2011 at 12:42 am

    I recommend downloading the document and giving it a perusal. I just printed it (24 pages if you do 4 pages per sheet) and found these interesting tidbits:

    p. 35
    Action 86
    Consider legislation requiring the inclusion of helmets, reflective gear and lighting with new bicycles

    Action 87
    Consider legislation requiring flashing beacons, reflectorization and personal protective hear on bicycles operating in noshoulder highway situations
    Consider legislation allowing the requirement of flashing beacons, refl ectorization and personal protective gear on bicycles operated in no-shoulder highway/high speed facility situations.

    p. 36
    Action 93
    Seek a mechanism for tracking bicyclist and pedestrian only transportation crashes, deaths and injuries

    p. 38
    Action 19
    Improve Key Infrastructure Safety Emphasis Areas
    State and local government must work to improve key Infrastructure Safety Emphasis Areas.
    These areas should include, but not be limited to the following:

    Pedestrian and Bicycle Crashes – Investigate the usefulness of curb bulb-outs, refuge islands, warning signage improvements and other countermeasures for pedestrian crashes, investigate improvements in traffic controls for bicycles and improvements at intersections to better accommodate crossing pedestrians and bicycles such as bicycle signals and rectangular rapid flashing beacons.

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    Dude August 9, 2011 at 8:14 am

    I’m not against driving. Heck, I’m a driver myself. But these people I see driving around town speeding, on the phone, with no turn signals, they’re just reckless scofflaws. I’m always afraid I’m going to hit one. And they kill more Oregonians under 35 than anything else. They’re terrible ambassadors for the driving community. They should expect more enforcement of the traffic rules unless they start acting more responsibly.

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    Alex Reed August 9, 2011 at 9:08 am

    Funny that “Reduce motor vehicle miles traveled” is not on the list.

    There’s one action in the 80s that says something about encouraging travel by bicycle and other means, but the subactions are mostly about bicycle safety. Bicycle safety promotion is not encouragement of bike travel. Too much of it is in my opinion bicycle discouragement.

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