Ruckus Warehouse Sale

ODOT invites reporters to drive distracted

Posted by on April 11th, 2018 at 10:58 am

Unfortunately, not on a closed course.
(Photo: J. Maus/BikePortland)

The Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) has just announced a novel way to raise awareness of the dangers of distracted driving.

Billed as “Your chance to drive distracted,” they’ve invited the media to join them tomorrow at a local race track where reporters can hop in a specially-outfitted car to get a deeper understanding of how distraction impacts driving. While this issue is certainly no laughing matter, I had to chuckle at the idea that anyone who drives regularly needs a special chance to drive distracted — as if they’ve never done it before!

The event will happen just north of the Kenton Neighborhood at Portland International Raceway.

Here’s ODOT’s pitch:

“We invite media to talk with safety officials, law enforcement, safety advocates and survivors from Oregon and Washington. The Oregon Driver Education Center will provide three driving courses reporters can test: a distracted driving course, an EZ drift car and an accelerator car, which gauges response time. Representatives from Oregon Impact, Trauma Nurses Talk Tough and U-TURN 180 will be available to comment. ODOT Director Matt Garrett, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Regional Administrator Greg Frederickson and Washington Traffic Safety Commission Media Relations Manager Shelly Baldwin will provide opening comments.”


ODOT will also have the mother of a young woman who was hit and killed in a crash caused by a distracted driver available for interviews. The woman’s totaled car will be on display.

ODOT statistics show that a distracted driver causes a crash ever 2.5 hours on average and that distraction plays a role in one of every 12 serious injury crashes in Oregon.

(Graphic: Zendrive)

In related news, Zendrive released their 2018 Distracted Driving Snapshot study yesterday. The company’s analysis was based on data from tracking 100 billion miles of driving. The bad news is that the problem is “far worse” than they thought. How much worse? 100 times worse says their data. “There’s a lot more driver phone use in the U.S. than officials say,” reads a company blog post on the study. They estimate that 60 percent of people use their phones while driving and there are 69 million U.S. drivers who use their phones in their cars each day.

The good news? Oregon held the title of “Least Distracted State” for the second year running and Portland was ranked as the second least distracted city. That might offer some solace, but keep in mind that a 2016 City of Portland survey found that distracted driving was a top concern for road users.

Check out Zendrive’s study here:

Zendrive Distracted Driving study FINAL (April 2018)

… And put your damn phone down!

But wait, there’s more… We appreciate ODOT doing events like this. Perhaps they can keep it going and help reporters (and their own staff) understand what it’s like to ride a bike in traffic. Here’s one novel way a transit agency is going about that:

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and

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  • Buzz April 11, 2018 at 11:02 am

    Maybe next they can put a few reporters on bicycles for a month of city riding and commuting.

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    • soren April 11, 2018 at 1:12 pm

      But that would be dangerous! /sarcasm

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    • nuovorecord April 12, 2018 at 8:42 am

      Actually, as I recall, Joseph Rose was a daily/frequent bike commuter when he was the Oregonian’s transportation reporter, as was the aforementioned Mapes.

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  • bikeninja April 11, 2018 at 12:09 pm

    If Oregon is the least distracted,then in Mississippi they must be driving around with 60″ flat screen televisions duct tapped to the top of the dashboard so they can watch football while they drive, sticking their head out of the open window occasionally to look at the road ahead.

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    • soren April 11, 2018 at 1:19 pm

      I blame Portland’s bike ninjas. These impossible to see dark-clothing wearing scofflaws are constantly *SHOCKING* poor-unsuspecting motorists out of their soporiphic reveries about lunch, dinner, tv shows, date-night, innervating co-workers, and donald trump to the point of actually paying attention to people using our roadways.

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      • Middle of the Road Guy April 11, 2018 at 3:02 pm


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  • Paul H April 11, 2018 at 1:46 pm

    Maybe ODOT could adopt the “Sage Hill Rock,” featured in this site’s Monday Roundup from December 11, 2017, and install it in various media parking lots around the state.

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  • Jim Lee April 11, 2018 at 2:05 pm

    Jeff Mapes, who wrote “Pedaling Revolution” used to be a reporter for the O.

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  • q April 11, 2018 at 2:44 pm

    I like that video of the buses passing the people on bikes, and I’d like to see that tried here for bus and other drivers.

    But it’s a fatally flawed impression of reality. The people in the video know the driver is watching for them and will not hit them, no matter how close he comes. A real cyclist doesn’t know if the driver even sees them. He may move over politely as he passes, or he may kill them.

    It’s like simulating being homeless by sleeping outside for a night, knowing if you get cold, hungry or uncomfortable, having someone to pick you up and drive you back home is a phone call away.

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    • Schrauf April 11, 2018 at 5:19 pm

      Good analogy.

      They should tell the people on bikes that one out of every ten drivers will close their eyes several seconds before they pass. Make it a little more real life.

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  • 9watts April 11, 2018 at 10:21 pm

    “Billed as ‘Your chance to drive distracted,’ they’ve invited the media to join them tomorrow at a local race track ”

    Our tax dollars at work.

    Someday I’d really like to understand and meet the people at ODOT who come up with these things?! A head-scratcher, this one.

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  • Scott Kocher April 12, 2018 at 9:40 am

    Anyone who is at the event this morning should ask the U-TURN 180 person why their driver education class features this video, which starts out with footage of a person being run over (very possibly killed) by a bus (trigger warning?!), under the caption “Dangers of being a distracted Pedestrian – a little comic relief.”

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