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State’s distracted driving campaign now includes unmarked patrol cars, task force

Posted by on April 6th, 2016 at 9:15 am

distract-newcarpresser

New unmarked Oregon State Police car unveiled at a press conference in Salem yesterday.
(Photo: ODOT)

The Oregon Department of Transportation is ramping up its attack on distracted driving.

“Our goal is to change cultural norms when it comes to distracted driving.”
— Matt Garrett, Director of ODOT

At a press conference yesterday ODOT Director Matt Garrett said the agency will tackle what he called an epidemic, “Through sustained education, enforcement, and policy initiatives.” He added that his goal is nothing less than to “change cultural norms when it comes to distracted driving.”

To do that Garrett announcd a new task force that will be made up of representatives from ODOT, Oregon State Police, AAA Oregon/Idaho, public health agencies, the courts, emergency service providers, academia and the media. (We’ve requested a list of names and more information on the task force but ODOT says it’s still preliminary and details are yet to be finalized.)

Beyond the task force and marketing efforts the most encouraging news is that the Oregon State Police are now using a fleet of 40 new unmarked patrol cars “to observe and document distracted driving.” Yesterday OSP announced they’ve already notched a 37 percent increase in enforcement. OSP Captain Dave Anderson said they’re focusing on five specific behaviors: speed, occupant safety (seat belt use), lane usage, impaired driving and distracted driving.

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Behind Anderson and Garrett as they spoke to media in Salem yesterday was a wrecked OSP patrol car that was rear-ended by a distracted driver last year and a big road sign that read: “U drive, u text, u pay.”

The efforts come after a marked increase in fatal traffic crashes last year when road deaths spiked 20 percent. That rise far outpaced vehicle miles traveled which, according to ODOT economists, was only up 5.4 percent. ODOT believes that by far the largest contributing factor to this increase is human error.

ODOT has completed a survey and commissioned a study on distracted driving in Oregon. Their data shows between 2010 and 2014 distracted driving was at least partly to blame for a crash every 2.5 hours an injury every three hours. A whopping 75 percent of people admitted driving distracted in a recent AAA survey. 83 percent of respondents to that survey agreed that the problem is on the rise and feel that, “stronger laws, better use of technology, and increased awareness,” are how we should fight it.

While we’re on the topic, have you seen the brillian anti-distracted driving campaign video from New Zealand? Watch it below…

Wonder if ODOT could get this to run on TV and the web here in Oregon?

— Jonathan Maus, (503) 706-8804 – jonathan@bikeportland.org

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NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. BikePortland is an inclusive company with no tolerance for discrimination or harassment including expressions of racism, sexism, homophobia, or xenophobia. 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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rick
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rick

“U pay” with what penalties that have been shown lately?

Granpa
Guest
Granpa

Motorcycles and trucks (bicycles too) are taller than most cars and provide a superior view into the car. Police in low slung sedans will miss a lot of the things they could see from a taller vehicle.

Adam
Subscriber

I applaud ODOT for trying to change the culture around distracted driving. ODOT should take measures to ensure that this campaign doesn’t creep into victim-blaming hi-vis territory (I’m looking at you, TriMet). Hopefully this campaign will change people’s behaviors and save lives.

However, ODOT also needs to take into consideration their deadly-by-design roads. Vision Zero requires a multi-faceted approach and education and enforcement are only part of the equation. Road design plays a massive role in safety and ODOT needs to start seriously considering this as a factor.

Of course, this requires ODOT to admit to their own mistakes.

Oliver
Guest
Oliver

I’d love to see a cultural shift on distracted driving, but drivers aren’t running over people walking or riding bicycles on the Interstate.

” focusing on five specific behaviors: speed, occupant safety (seat belt use), lane usage, impaired driving and distracted driving.” And probably in that order as well. How much money are we actually prepared to spend waste to capture that last 2.3% of idiots who refuse to buckle up?

To me that reads like it’s business as usual for law enforcement, focusing on the (same old) low-hanging fruit, but rolling out a bunch of feel good platitudes to justify a shiny new squadron of unmarked cars.

Paul Atkinson
Guest
Paul Atkinson

Do we have any idea which roads OSP will be patrolling? I’m curious whether they’ll get off the freeways (and the handful of state highways within the city) and onto the city streets with this initiative.

Eric
Guest
Eric

Had to buy fancy new unmarked cars to catch people who aren’t looking at the road?!
That’s some LOGIC right there.
Someone’s always getting paid.

B. Carfree
Guest
B. Carfree

While every additional effort at some traffic law enforcement is appreciated, these baby steps are really getting to me. When are we going to realize that we have to have a huge increase in enforcement in order to reduce roadway CARnage? A casual observation on any roadway will demonstrate that our motorists have complete and utter disdain for, and perhaps ignorance of, our traffic laws. We’re not going to break those deadly habits by increasing the probability of being caught from 0.0000001% to 0.00000012%.

Lester Burnham
Guest
Lester Burnham

Will they also be going after cyclists on cell phones?

dwk
Guest
dwk

I was pulled over last week at 6:15AM for running the red lights at Broadway & Weidler on my bike commute. The police officer gave me a warning for it.
So they are enforcing traffic laws.

Todd Boulanger
Guest
Todd Boulanger

I wonder if the Governor would send a note to this effect to all of the judges in the state…to guide their judgements on “sentencing” and have them read it to each jury before the trial for the deliberations.

Anne Hawley
Subscriber
Anne Hawley

What is ODOT’s relationship to the DMV? I get that they have to work with the bad, underqualified drivers currently on the road, but why is there no mention of making it harder to get and retain a driver’s license?

If they’re assuming that people will still be driving a generation from now (which all their road design says they are), then why aren’t they mandating that drivers have to be better, starting this year?

Alexis
Guest
Alexis

Just this morning a guy with a phone pressed to his ear turning left off MLK had to slam on his brakes to avoid hitting me and my dog while we were crossing with the light. He made the palm up “Sorry!” gesture while still continuing his phone conversation. I made the thumb and pinky “hang up the phone” gesture once I was safely out of his path.

Personally, I’d love to see red light cameras upgraded to capture video and used to ticket folks using their phones while driving. Can you imagine what we could do with the revenue from all those tickets?

CaptainKarma
Guest
CaptainKarma

Shooda been an SUV for a better look down into the cars. also need cameras rolling for evidence.

Bill Stites
Subscriber

Distracted driving is a GIANT problem. Glad to see they are addressing it … to a small degree.

Conventional policing means are not going to solve the issue; it will take some form of technological cure to match the rise of the cell phone in everyday life.
Somehow, we’ve tapped into some form of ‘human nature’, where people just can’t seem to put the damn phones down … even good people.

Frankly, I believe only complete disabling of phones upon starting the car is what will be needed. If you really need to communicate with someone, you pull over and turn your engine off. Emergency access to 911 can be maintained – we already see this feature on phones in certain limited-access situations.
This would also address the idling engines problem, while the driver has not yet disembarked [but at least they aren’t driving! kudos there].

Dan A
Subscriber
Dan A

Will they be speeding in those cars too?

David Feldman
Guest
David Feldman

Stealth cops–good! Better yet, have them seize and destroy the offender’s phone on the spot–this might be the best possible persuader.

bendite
Guest
bendite

They could easily just pop people at stoplights. I know in their brains they’re thinking “I just check at the stoplights”, but I wonder what the actual percentage is of drivers who only check at stoplights?

jered bogli
Guest
jered bogli

could just put an officer at all the metered on ramps and off ramps with stop lights (murray blvd) holding a sign that says “distracted driving give the state some monesy” and write tickets all day long. everyone would awkwardly avoid eye contact untill the officer was handing them the ticket… just saying – full goldmine.

Dan A
Subscriber
Dan A

Turn signals missing from the list. Are these now optional?

Matthew B
Guest
Matthew B

Unfortunately, unless we get leadership from the three branches of government: legislative, executive AND judicial, not much is going to change. To me there needs to be a license points system, so once you rack up so many points, you lose your license. There needs to be zero tolerance for impaired and distracted driving. If someone is driving an unregistered or uninsured motor vehicle, that vehicle needs to be impounded and the occupants transported to the police precinct were they can arrange alternative transport to their destination. Unless people face the real possibility that their ability to drive is going to be curtailed, they’re not going to change their behaviors. ODOT, the police and the courts do not seem to me to have any appetite for enforcing the Oregon traffic laws.

Tom
Guest
Tom

Fine is pocket change and no points. Drivers will just laugh this off as usual. The protected class keeps their protection, just the police get new expensive cars to drive around while the officers text. Where is the real reform? New cars….thats their big idea?….what a joke.

Skid
Guest
Skid

That tint looks dark enough to be illegal.