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Portland’s traffic death toll climbs to 51 after two more people died this morning

Posted by on December 27th, 2019 at 2:04 pm

NE 122nd and Halsey — where someone was killed while walking this morning — is dominated by dangerous vehicle users. Can you spot the man in the crosswalk?

Two people died within one hour of each other on Portland streets Friday morning. The two fatal collisions bring our annual death toll to 51 — the highest number since 1996 and nearly twice the amount we had at the outset of the decade in 2010.

This pole is in front of a school on N Interstate Ave.

At 2:45 am this morning police responded to someone who slammed their SUV into a power pole on N Interstate Avenue right in front of The Ivy School. The driver was cited for Reckless Driving and DUI. A few hours later around 6:30 am, someone died after being hit by a car driver while trying to walk across NE Halsey and 122nd. Then less than an hour later another person died in a head-on crash between two car drivers on North Lombard just west of Vancouver Avenue.

That brings the total number of people who died while walking on Portland streets this year to 17. Combined with the two bicycling deaths and nine motorcycling deaths, 28 of the 51 victims so far this year were vulnerable road users.

According to Portland Police Bureau data obtained by BikePortland through a public records request, a majority of this year’s fatal crashes are still under investigation.

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Something major must change to get to zero in 10 years. (Source: PBOT and PPB data)

Six of the cases were labeled hit-and-run and there have been eight felony arrests so far. There are currently 27 fatal traffic incidents that are currently either under investigation (21) or have been referred to the District Attorney or City Attorney. Just 12 of the fatal crashes (so far) have been determined to have no criminal activity associated with them.

By my tally, 26 of the deaths so far this year have occurred on the City of Portland’s High Crash Network, which are defined as the 30 most dangerous streets in the city. Despite being just 8% of Portland streets, this High Crash Network consistently represents over half of all deadly crashes.

A story in The Oregonian earlier this month pointed to several factors that deserve blame for this year’s high death toll, including a lack of enforcement and a dangerous driving culture that favors speed and larger vehicles like SUVs. PBOT Director Chris Warner told The Oregonian that when it comes to preventing fatal crashes, “A lot of it is out of our control.”

Portland has adopted a “Vision Zero” goal to eliminate traffic fatalities by 2030.

For an updated tally of every fatality so far this year, see our tracker.

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org
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34 Comments
  • Avatar
    Jim Lee December 27, 2019 at 2:53 pm

    At least the head of PBOT now recognizes that, “A lot of it is out of our control.”

    A lot of us knew this long ago when the VZ band wagon was just getting up steam.

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      q December 28, 2019 at 10:18 pm

      But in aspects that certainly are within PBOT’s control, PBOT could be doing much better. Right down to the most basic things like PBOT parking its own trucks (with their orange Vision Zero bumper stickers) in bike lanes and crosswalks.

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    J_R December 27, 2019 at 2:57 pm

    Are we finally willing to consider enforcement?

    An almost total lack of enforcement appears not to work.

    Recommended Thumb up 46

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      Toby Keith December 30, 2019 at 10:23 am

      Too bad it will never happen. In fact Portland hates cops so much that Chief Outlaw is throwing in the towel after only two years.

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        pengo December 30, 2019 at 11:26 am

        Apparently the avg tenure of a modern police chief in the US is 2.5 to 3 years

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          Chris I December 30, 2019 at 1:11 pm

          Yes, but that would fit the narrative. We can’t have facts and data here.

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            Toby Keith December 30, 2019 at 5:17 pm

            Narrative? You mean like the ones formulated in progressive echo chambers?

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              Chris I December 31, 2019 at 7:57 am

              Ah, yes. “I know you are, but what am I?”

              Very clever.

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      Evan Manvel January 2, 2020 at 10:14 am

      What do you mean “consider enforcement”?

      There are kind of two options:

      (a) More automated enforcement (cameras at stop lights and speed cameras), which state law limits. The City has been working hard to change the laws statewide and expand their ability to do more automated enforcement. This is by far the most affordable and long-lasting enforcement approach.

      (b) Devote more police in cars to traffic enforcement. This takes them away from other community priorities, is very expensive in person-hours-per-ticket, and has little ongoing effect because the odds of getting a ticket are miniscule even if we doubled the number of traffic division officers.

      Which are you asking the City to change its approach on? Or do you have other ideas on enforcement?

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    buildwithjoe December 27, 2019 at 3:00 pm

    Please sign this petition for more speed and red light cameras , or call with your own ideas

    http://chng.it/rqyD7R4b

    (503)986-1200

    Speaker Tina Kotek who appoints all the transportation committee members, and they are the ones who promote stuff or kill it in committee

    Recommended Thumb up 9

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    Jamie December 27, 2019 at 3:40 pm

    Someone sheared a power pole next to the cemetery under I-5 on Columbia last week, and another driver crashed into the SB Lombard/Interstate Max platform yesterday morning, later in the same trip, I saw an American Property Management garbage truck and private motor vehicle engaging in a road rage game of cat and mouse on Lombard between Columbia park and N. Denver.

    Meanwhile, the seasonal kvetchfest about pedestrians not wearing enough PPE continues unabated on Nextdoor.

    Recommended Thumb up 25

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      Chris I December 30, 2019 at 7:30 am

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e9NgftEFPD4

      Someone needs to sit down with Pip’s Donuts and have a serious discussion about its lack of Hi-Viz entryway/facade. I’m sure the driver didn’t see them in the dark.

      Recommended Thumb up 5

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        middle of the road guy December 31, 2019 at 9:17 am

        See, VooDoo never had this happen with their pink paint.

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    Bike Guy December 27, 2019 at 5:16 pm

    And people wonder why this gravel biking fad keeps gaining momentum.

    Recommended Thumb up 9

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    David Hampsten December 27, 2019 at 6:36 pm

    In my highly segregated community of 300,000 most of our crime victims and perpetrators are African-American, and most of the remainder are Latinx. If you are white or Asian, my community is remarkably safe. The rates for crash fatalities are very similar, be they drivers or pedestrians. 20% of our crash fatalities are pedestrians and nearly all occur in predominantly minority parts of town. Car crashes are more widely distributed, but the drivers in most cases, even in white areas of town, are visible minorities. Most drivers who hit minority pedestrians are themselves minorities, usually of the same race as the victim.

    Related to all this, our police have noted a definite upward trend in deliberate murders whereby the perpetrator uses a motor vehicle to kill or severely maim a victim instead of a firearm. So much so that they now routinely investigate all crashes as to what relationship the driver had to the other driver(s) or pedestrians, including through intermediaries and family connections, as well as past criminal records.

    Both our murder and fatal crash rates are quite a bit higher than Portland’s, as are most cities here in NC. Fortunately we haven’t had any bicycle fatalities (though nearby cities have), but we have had some serious injuries as well as serious scooter injuries. In fact, Portland is a pretty safe city given its large and growing size.

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    bendite December 27, 2019 at 9:43 pm

    Looks like it might mirror the economy. When the recession hit, fewer people were driving, and they were driving fewer miles.

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      Al December 28, 2019 at 8:00 am

      The Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Commission keeps statistics on this. The most accessible ones I found are here.
      https://www.advisorperspectives.com/dshort/updates/2019/12/23/vehicle-miles-traveled-another-look-at-our-evolving-behavior

      The 2000 recession didn’t appear to register but the 2008 one did in a big way, one which had an effect lasting for the better part of a decade.

      But another way to look at this is that Portland’s population when this data begins was somewhere around 500,000. It is nearly 660,000 today, over 30% growth. So, population adjusted, annual traffic fatalities have actually declined!

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        q December 28, 2019 at 10:12 pm

        “But another way to look at this is that Portland’s population when this data begins was somewhere around 500,000. It is nearly 660,000 today, over 30% growth. So, population adjusted, annual traffic fatalities have actually declined!”

        That may be true for comparing the 1990s figures to 2019’s, but it’s sure not true comparing some of the more recent years to this year’s–especially not this year’s 51 to last year’s 34–a huge increase in deaths compared to a small increase in population.

        And in any case, the going from horrible to less-per-person-but-still-horrible is still horrible.

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      Chris I December 30, 2019 at 7:34 am

      Unfortunately, there is another big factor at play here: vehicle design. The majority of new vehicles sold are now pickup trucks and SUVs. And many new trucks/SUVs are designed with menacing brick wall-like front ends. These vehicles are significantly more dangerous for pedestrians and cyclists because of the frontal area impact zone. Additionally, these vehicles have huge blind spots, increasing the odds of hook-type crashes, and back-over incidents. I don’t expect road deaths to drop much during the next recession. Without a major increase in the cost of gas, I don’t see this trend changing in the future.

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    Mike Quigley December 28, 2019 at 5:40 am

    Lack of enforcement sums it up. That, plus Portland’s reputation for having the highest per capita alcoholism rate in the nation. And, why does Portland even have a police force? They don’t seem to do anything but harass people of color.

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      Brian December 31, 2019 at 8:52 am

      I just read a story about two Portland officers saving an elderly woman from a burning home in Montavilla.

      Recommended Thumb up 3

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    Middle of the Road Guy December 28, 2019 at 3:45 pm

    Vision Zero is killing it!

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    Momo December 28, 2019 at 6:09 pm

    Now I know why my power was out all morning and all the TriMet buses were on re-route down my local street! Because somebody smashed into a power pole near by house. Thankfully that crash didn’t kill anybody, but it certainly could have if someone had been walking or biking on Interstate at that time. Drunk driving seems to be the most common factor behind all the worst crashes. We need to get a better handle on this!

    I’m hoping the recent Oregon Supreme Court ruling prohibiting cops from using a traffic stop as an excuse to search people or vehicles might help address the equity concerns that have kept some elected officials from fully embracing enforcement as a behavior change tool. Enforcement is a key part of Vision Zero and its the one we’re really failing at in Portland. We can design safe streets all we want, but drunk drivers or truly reckless drivers can defeat the most well-designed street. So we need enforcement for that kind of behavior change.

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    Peter W December 28, 2019 at 6:16 pm

    > several factors that deserve blame for this year’s high death toll, including a lack of enforcement and a dangerous driving culture that favors speed and larger vehicles like SUVs.

    Perhaps off-road vehicles should be kept off roads.

    Recommended Thumb up 8

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      Chris I December 30, 2019 at 7:37 am

      You can buy this stock pickup truck today: https://inventory-dmg.assets-cdk.com/0/7/1/21249037170.jpg

      It is outrageous that vehicles like this are street-legal.

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        middle of the road guy December 30, 2019 at 8:59 am

        We are in agreement on this. Or at the very least, they require a heavy vehicle operator license.

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          Mike Reams January 3, 2020 at 3:06 pm

          My driveway has leaves on it. What do you want me to do? Live like a savage?

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    Jim Lee December 29, 2019 at 3:18 pm

    “Vision Zero” implies that EVERYTHING is under PBOT’s control, which was Leah Treat’s manifest premise in initiating the fraud.

    The bar graph of deaths by year from 1996 to 2019 shows a strong correlation to VMT, especially in 2008 when driving decreased due to financial hardship. The primary variable is VMT. Until VMT is greatly reduced PBOT can only nibble around the edges of traffic safety, at best.

    51 traffic deaths per year is what we get when those running and promoting the show do not understand the basics of traffic statistics. Kudos to Chris Warner for trying to understand.

    Further, as I have long been saying, the mathematical analysis never allows us to get to zero. Why lie to the public by intimating that we can?

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      middle of the road guy December 30, 2019 at 9:00 am

      Exactly. People will always find a way to do dumb things – you cannot out-engineer stupidity and negligence.

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        Chris I December 30, 2019 at 9:09 am

        We can eliminate the drivers completely. It’s going to take time, but we will get there.

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      Evan Manvel January 2, 2020 at 10:19 am

      Vision Zero may imply that to you, but cities across the world invite everyone who can impact the traffic deaths to the table. That usually includes police departments, health departments, emergency response providers (because fast response = fewer deaths), judges, researchers, etc.

      And – imagine that – PBOT’s Vision Zero Task Force has those people at the table.
      https://www.portlandoregon.gov/transportation/article/628402

      And many places across the world have cut their traffic deaths by half or more even as VMTs are steady or growing.

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        soren January 2, 2020 at 12:36 pm

        “Vision Zero may imply that to you, but cities across the world invite everyone who can impact the traffic deaths to the table. That usually includes police departments, health departments, emergency response providers (because fast response = fewer deaths), judges, researchers, etc.”

        The invite everyone to the table process, including institutions culturally opposed to vision zero (e.g. police, emergency responders, and traffic engineers), is nothing more than a re-brand of failed 1950s era 3E policies. For example, PBOT’s head traffic safety engineer baldly stated that “Vision Zero” is the same thing as the three Es: bit.ly/2q4SWJ.

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          soren January 2, 2020 at 12:47 pm

          correct link:bit.ly/2QjJAEb

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