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With 40% rise in roadway deaths, activists plan to target ODOT

Posted by on June 29th, 2015 at 2:05 pm

crashodotfatal

A man died in this collision on Saturday
on Highway 6 near Tillamook.
(Photo: Oregon State Police)

As long as roadway fatalities and injuries keep piling up, local activists plan to keep protesting.

Fresh of last week’s rally and demonstrations at City Hall, volunteers with BikeLoudPDX will continue their actions with a Death Toll Memorial event tomorrow at the headquarters of the Oregon Department of Transportation in downtown Portland.

“Several of us feel the need to publicly acknowledge that 30 people lost their lives in June on Oregon roads in preventable wrecks,” wrote event organizer Dan Kaufman. Kaufman, the same man who organized the protest on SE Powell Blvd back in May, is fed up with the loss of life and injury on our roads.

Fueling Kaufman’s outrage is an alarming uptick in Oregon traffic deaths. According to ODOT, from January 1st through June 23rd there have been 194 fatalities on Oregon roads. That’s an increase of 39.6 percent over the same time-frame last year. (And since the 23rd there have been at least six more fatalities (according to our research) bringing the total up to 199.)

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While the state agency is working on various safety measures, some activists feel ODOT should do more as well as re-think their priorities. “They, and many in the state legislature, want to expand freeways while ignoring the carnage,” Kaufman says.

Last week ODOT and the legislature tried (unsuccessfully) to push through a transportation bill that included over $70 million in earmarks for highway widening projects. In a notice about an upcoming project in Washington County, ODOT claimed that widening Highway 26 with a new lane in each direction would, “improve traffic safety and relieve congestion.”

In contrast, the description for tomorrow’s event reads: “The current transportation priority is expanding our dysfunctional road system… We will not support any roadway expansion until Vision Zero is adopted and implemented statewide.”

Unlike the City of Portland, who officially adopted Vision Zero earlier this month, ODOT has yet to embrace the concept. Speaking at an event back in April, ODOT’s Traffic Safety Division manager Troy Costales said their goal is to “increase the number of zero fatality days.”

BikeLoudPDX plans to make this a monthly event that will draw attention to the ongoing death toll. They’re hoping to tell stories from the perspective of the deceased and have family members of the victims show up and speak.

The event is at 4:30 to 5:30 pm tomorrow (6/30) at ODOT Region 1 headquarters (123 NW Flanders). Learn more via Facebook.

Stay tuned for more coverage of ODOT’s traffic safety efforts. We are working on an interview with Costales to find out more about this year’s uptick in fatalities and what he’s doing to address the issue.

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tedder
Guest

If I knew I could get it delivered, I’d order a cake that says “CONGRATS ON YOUR 200th DEATH!”.

Mike Quiglery
Guest
Mike Quiglery

The biggest reason for the uptick in traffic accidents is inattentive drivers (texting, talking on cells phones, eating hamburgers, putting on makeup, etc., etc.). Something ODOT has no control over. But the cops do, if they would just do it.

Dan
Guest
Dan

“The stretch of the Sunset Highway has reached its vehicle capacity. Traffic demands will increase as the population and employment in Washington County continue to grow and without improvements, congestion and crashes are expected to increase.”

Stated as fact!

Wow, way to go.

spencer
Guest
spencer

The only thing that will help reduce death on our roads is the collective acceptance that we must engineer roads to accommodate human error, and still keep us safe. We must build infrastructure to allow errors without death resulting.

Gabbi
Guest
Gabbi

“Increase the number of zero fatality days”??? You can have 364 zero fatality days and if 300 people die on the 365th day you’ve still met your goal. ODOT needs a lesson in creating goals that address the real metrics, i.e. saving people’s lives.

Lynne
Guest
Lynne

ODOT certainly has control over the facilities. Hwy 99 has been repaved from Hwy 18 to Dayton, and the previously crummy but existing shoulder now narrows to about 8 inches in places. Inexcusable.

Gerik
Guest

Here is something more people can do if they want to get ODOT to adopt Vision Zero: https://btaoregon.org/2015/06/action-alert-move-oregon-to-vision-zero-urge-legislators-to-pass-hb-2736-a/

Tom Hardy
Guest
Tom Hardy

Does anyone else ever note the rather nice speedbumps on NW Lovejoy from 36th on up the hill past the tunnels? They are fantastic and major kudos to ODOT or PDOT or whoever put them in. They have garden pots in the middle of the road to help seperate the lanes, they are marked on the pavement like crosswalks, they have a 4-6 inch cut in the middle of each lane for bikes or motorcycles to go through without going airborne. If the street is to be 20 mph for instance, make the bumps about 5-6 inches. This is high enough so if a motorized vehicle hits them over 20-25 mph It could do some major damage to the vehicle. Guaranteed if someone did this consistantly the vehicle would be ready for the wrecking yard in a couple of weeks. Rednecked sports cars, 4Wd big wheels. would have drivers going through their sunroofs by the time they went over a few.

Dwaine Dibbly
Guest
Dwaine Dibbly

Keep the pressure on, people. It seems like we’re just starting to get some attention to making the streets safer. Soon we’ll see momentum in the right direction. Don’t get discouraged! Don’t get frustrated! Don’t give up!

B. Carfree
Guest
B. Carfree

I recall reading the ODOT manual on the setting of speed limits a few years ago. It said that ODOT operates under the (false) assumption that motorists tend to drive at a safe speed, thus they set the speed limit based on the speed that people drive.

Our constant CARnage on the road puts the lie to that statement, as well as any unbiased observation. Just how many pedestrians stand waiting for minutes at a time because the motorists are driving too fast to stop at the cross walks (or the pedestrians rightfully fear that this is the case)? How many people won’t ride bikes because of a fear of speeding motorists?

ODOT operates in an alternate reality.

B. Carfree
Guest
B. Carfree

Someone correct me if I’m wrong, but don’t we have fewer state troopers on the road now than we did in the ’70s? I know we have fewer deputies in our non-urban counties. I really think that enforcement is the key to roadway safety, but it’s tough to do enforcement without employing officers to do it.

Also, a few years back our governor tried to fund the troopers out of the road budget and was slammed for his attempt. It seems the entitled car-addicts don’t want any of the money we spend on roads diverted to law enforcement; no surprise since none of them seem capable of obeying the laws, or even knowing them.

AndyC of Linnton
Guest
AndyC of Linnton

Garshdangit! Wish I could be there tomorrow. Okay, maybe next month.
Best of luck! (And by that I mean, “best of luck getting there if you have to use an ODOT facility.”)

PeeJay
Guest

The people of Oregon should file a Class-action lawsuit against ODOT. Anybody who operated a vehicle or otherwise used an ODOT facility was put at risk by their willful negligence, and would have standing. Those injured or who lost relatives from crashes would have extra standing, and would collect more in damages. Naturally, there would be a negotiation period where a deal could be struck: in lieu of damages, ODOT would publicly renounce their outdated and disproven policies, and commit to an inclusive Vision Zero plan, supervised or approved by a reputable agency. If they fail to meet incremental goals, they would be fined, and officials would be replaced until they complied.

This department is reckless with the lives of its bosses, the citizens of Oregon, and drastic action must be taken. Enough is enough. Not one more death.

J_R
Guest
J_R

The overhead freeway signs in Chicago list the number of fatalities to date in the State of Illinois. This afternoon (Monday, June 29) the tally was 414 fatalities so far in Illinois for 2015. Illinois’ population is just under 13 million; Oregon’s is almost 4 million. That means Oregon’s fatality rate is considerably worse than that in Illinois. That’s disheartening!

GirlOnTwoWheels
Guest
GirlOnTwoWheels

If we really want to get the word about this out, we need to share our thoughts on this beyond this website. Here, we are often preaching to the choir. I am going to start getting the news out to people who don’t cycle by posting to Facebook and other social media. If we can start getting the larger community involved, maybe we can see greater change. Because let’s face it, the Oregonian is not going to publish this in such a way to get people to demand safer roads.

Psyfalcon
Guest
Psyfalcon

Any citations to the idea that its because of distracted driving? I mean, yes, that does not help, but why would you see such a sudden spike?

Since hwy 26 was mentioned… closer in, the right lane to continue east on 26 through the tunnel is always backed up (noon, night, I don’t think I’ve ever seen it flow) is it just because of the turn and short tunnel? I’ve always wondered if that was one spot where widening the road might actually help (and its already closed to bikes).

Dead Salmon
Guest
Dead Salmon

Traffic deaths are declining nation-wide:
http://www-nrd.nhtsa.dot.gov/Pubs/811552.pdf

BUT deaths from distracted driving have increased in past 10 years or so:
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2951952/

Dweendaddy
Guest
Dweendaddy

Oregon, like all states and the US on average, has had a slow and steady decrease in auto related fatalities over the last several decades. I would not expect 2014 to be a reversed trend, but a blip in a longer standing trend. At around 8 deaths per 100,000 residents per year, Oregon is actually safer than many states AND could be much safer.
To keep that trend continuing toward Vision Zero, Oregon (and other states), have to be persistent on all things related to crashes (not necessarily in this order):
1. Lowering speed (both legal limits and illegal speeding)
2.Drunk Driving – harsher sentences and suspensions and more frequent checks.
3. Making it harder to get a license and maintain it.
4. Decreasing conflict between bikes/peds and cars.

Carrie
Guest
Carrie

I really think enforcement can change behavior. Maybe not for every single driver, but for a majority, which will slow down many others.

About 6 months ago my spouse received a speeding ticket on Johnson Creek (a 25mph street) in Milwaukie from a speeding camera. It was deserved. Since then we drive the speed limit on that road All The Time (which, I must say, takes concentration, because it’s designed for higher speeds). Just last week I had an extremely frustrated tailgater behind me who wanted so badly to pass me (over the double yellow line). But the threat of another ticket kept us at 25, even when facing extreme social pressure the other way from the car behind us.

TJ
Guest
TJ

Best traffic / speeding / reckless driving calming measure: enforcement and awareness of strict enforcement.

TJ
Guest
TJ

Same boat everywhere. Pulling over two cars an hour will slow everyone down. It’s a lame excuse.

harla
Guest
harla

Focusing all the attention on ODOT is shortsighted in my opinion. A successful transportation network requires a balance of engineering, enforcement, education, encouragement, etc. ODOT can build a near-perfect highway but if it lacks enforcement and an educated populace (don’t text and drive!) then what has been accomplished?

In the end ODOT is taking its directive from the legislature and the governor, balancing mobility needs of freight to keep the economy vibrant vs. multimodal needs of the general public. Protesting the rise in statewide fatalities to ODOT staff at Region 1 will only go so far. If you want to make a fundamental change, organize a protest on the front steps of the Capitol Building and contact your representative.

Cheers

Peter W
Guest

> Troy Costales said their goal is to “increase the number of zero fatality days.”

ODOT might as well say that they hope Thursdays are “death free days” but they’re OK with folks dying on Fridays.

Mike
Guest
Mike

I’m not sure how many hundreds of times I’ll have to say it but ODOT doesn’t really care about traffic deaths. Sure they’ll write flowery press-releases and vision statements about reducing traffic deaths and making roads safer but then they go back to building wider and more roads to get more people in cars. And they don’t pressure communities to stop clogging roads up with auto-centric development that destroys any efficiency that might have been gained.

ODOT needs to go back to their old name so there’s no confusion that their mission, especially outside of Portland, is to build highways no matter what the environment.