ODOT survey seeks your input on where they should spend safety funding

On the Oregon Coast Bike Route, somewhere between Tillamook and Newport. (Jonathan Maus/BikePortland)

The Oregon Department of Transportation sent out a survey on the first of April that seeks to gather information about road safety. I think you should take it.

Given the high stakes of the coming legislative session where lawmakers will debate a massive new transportation spending and policy package, I feel like every opportunity to share feedback with ODOT should be seized. This is especially true because I’ve seen this same survey being shared in circles online where folks don’t believe ODOT should spend any money on things like traffic calming, road diets, or bike lanes — because things aren’t really “fixing the roads.”

The survey comes from ODOT’s Transportation Safety Office who says (on their website) that their main responsibility is to, “improve the safety of all roadway users, and all modes of travel in Oregon through education and outreach” with an overall goal to, “eliminate traffic fatalities and serious injuries on Oregon’s roadways.” This office is funded by grants from the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) and it’s focused on communication and partnerships with community groups, not on infrastructure funding.

According to Safety Office Public Information Officer Mindy McCartt, this is the first time this office has pushed out their safety survey to such a wide audience. It’s part of their effort to fulfill demographic and reporting requirements from the federal government. In the past they’ve gathered this feedback primarily from in-person meetings around the state and from a smaller survey sample online.

What’s important to keep in mind is beyond reporting back to NHTSA, this survey will inform how the Safety Office spends its funding. “We’re going to also use it to help determine how the money is spent next year and the following years,” McCartt shared with me today.” And you can bet that the responses gathered will end up on slides in future ODOT presentations to the legislature and beyond.

The questions in the survey are pretty straightforward. They include:

  • What makes you interested in traffic safety? 
  • How safe do you feel driving on Oregon roads? 
  • What is the number one factor that impacts how you feel about driving on Oregon roads? 
  • How safe do you feel on Oregon paths? 
  • What is the number one factor that impacts how you feel on Oregon paths? 
  • How can we best support traffic safety education in your community?
  • What community organizations or groups do you believe could benefit from traffic safety education?
  • How do you best receive traffic safety educational information?

The most intriguing question asks what specific programs ODOT should invest traffic safety dollars in. Survey takers are given 14 options and can select up to five. Here are the options:

  • Bicyclist and Pedestrian Safety
  • Distracted Driving
  • Driver Education
  • Impaired Driving
  • Judicial Outreach
  • Motorcycle Safety
  • Occupant Protection/Seat Belts/Child Car Seats
  • Older Driver Education Programs
  • Police Traffic Services/Emergency Responder Training
  • Road Safety
  • Safe Routes to School
  • Speed
  • Vehicle Safety Equipment
  • Work Zone Safety

Take the survey here.

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor)

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor)

Founder of BikePortland (in 2005). Father of three. North Portlander. Basketball lover. Car owner and driver. If you have questions or feedback about this site or my work, feel free to contact me at @jonathan_maus on Twitter, via email at maus.jonathan@gmail.com, or phone/text at 503-706-8804. Also, if you read and appreciate this site, please become a supporter.

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David Hampsten
David Hampsten
18 days ago

I have never heard of any agency making decisions based on a public survey. Nearly every agency makes decisions based on internal biases, ongoing projects, what is likely to get approval by elected officials, fund matching for grants, and so on, with public survey results being manipulated to justify those decisions.

Art Lewellan
Art Lewellan
17 days ago

My own numerous appearances before City & Metro Councils I’m left with the impression much like DH. Public input is useless. Closed door decisions are made and then the public is allowed to voice opinion. TedWheeler is thee wurst mayor in my 50 years here. Next worst mayor is SAdams. Portland Prosper (prosperity for the already prosperous) Development Commission members with Big Business runs the show.

Lazy Spinner
Lazy Spinner
18 days ago
Reply to  David Hampsten

I very sadly agree, David. It’s the 2024 ODOT “We Pretend to Listen, We Pretend to Care” poll. The realpolitik of agency funding and priorities are determined by the factors listed in your reply.

David Hampsten
David Hampsten
18 days ago

A question you ought to ask ODOT is how many of the survey responses came from internal staff, contractors, legislators, and allied public agencies like PBOT, versus the genuine public and from nonprofit advocates.

Bjorn
Bjorn
18 days ago

It felt like a push poll trying to get me to support education as the solution to our traffic violence problem. I guess for me personally I don’t think that the underlying reason that we have so many people operating motor vehicles while speeding, looking at their phone, or intoxicated is that they just hadn’t ever been told that you shouldn’t do those things…

dw
dw
18 days ago
Reply to  Bjorn

Yeah. I was waiting for the bus a few months ago, watching the traffic crawl by when I spotted a guy watching YouTube (!!!!) while driving. He stopped in front of me and his video was interrupted by – I kid you not – an ad about the dangers of distracted driving.

qqq
qqq
17 days ago
Reply to  dw

Weird. Playing a video while you’re driving has got to be distracting while you’re trying to eat and text.

Michael
Michael
18 days ago
Reply to  Bjorn

Well, it’s from an office that provides safety education, so that tracks.

mperham
mperham
18 days ago

I noted that any safety education should go to ODOT traffic engineers who continue to follow the 1950s road building manual and build roads which are unsafe by default to everyone outside a car/truck.

Michael
Michael
18 days ago
Reply to  mperham

Same. “Education for staff and elected leaders for shifts in mode share” was the theme of my responses.

MelK
MelK
18 days ago

Thanks, Jonathan, I just took the survey. I refused to take the bait on education campaigns, though. For example, my answer to the question “How can we best support traffic safety education in your community?” was:

Fix the infrastructure. There is data indicating that education campaigns don’t work. Asking drivers to pretty please slow down and don’t drive impaired/aggressively/distracted is entirely ineffective, and asking pedestrians not to get killed is even less effective. According to NHTSA, “In a 2020 ranking of traffic safety tactics, the federal National Highway Traffic Safety Administration gave pedestrian safety education… one star out of five, reflecting ‘limited or no high-quality evaluation evidence.'” (https://slate.com/business/2022/06/traffic-safety-campaigns-do-they-work.html). In short, education campaigns are a distraction and a waste of valuable resources.

But now in hindsight, that makes me wonder: by checking the “pedestrian and bicyclist safety” box, did I just inadvertently encourage ODOT to fund “hey pedestrians and cyclists, don’t get killed” education campaigns? Because the way ODOT interprets a “pedestrian and bicyclist safety” campaign probably looks very different from how I would interpret one (which is to say, I’d shift away from education entirely and focus on infrastructure and enforcement).

joan
18 days ago

Q: What community organizations or groups do you believe could benefit from traffic safety education?
A: ODOT leadership & engineers

Art Lewellan
Art Lewellan
17 days ago
Reply to  joan

My numerous appearances before City & Metro Councils, I’m left with impressions much like DH. Public input is useless. Closed door decisions made and the public allowed to voice opinion. TedWheeler Thee Wurst Mayor in 50 years. Next worst Mayor Samadams. Portland Prosper (prosperity for the already prosperous) Development Commission members Big Business runs this show…
edit: Browser intact.

Matt
Matt
18 days ago

Beginning the survey with collecting your name and email address is absolutely going to create a selection bias

Jay Cee
Jay Cee
17 days ago
Reply to  Matt

I left those blank and was surprised they still let me complete the survey

SteveBinEugene
SteveBinEugene
17 days ago

Let me just point out that the survey itself and the “Public Participation and Safety…” page lack

when the survey closes
when they imagine reporting about what we told them
what they plan to do with what we told them.

I wrote to them to ask.

I agree it feels very much like a “We Pretend to Listen, We Pretend to Care” poll.

Art Lewellan
Art Lewellan
16 days ago
Reply to  SteveBinEugene

City planners in roadway, walkway and housing development fields entertain fellow egotists who can make no mistake and do no wrong. The SW Corridor MAX was a horrendous example of unacceptably BAD engineering. Rose Q I-5 as proposed will make existing traffic HAZARDS worse, MORE multi-car pileups, MORE passenger, pedestrian and cyclist injury AND fatalities! By my count, there are 4 criminal charges including Reckless Endangerment & Negligent Homicide. Sure, let’s build apartment towers next to the damn freeway off/on ramps. What could go wrong?

SteveBinEugene
SteveBinEugene
7 days ago
Reply to  SteveBinEugene

A FOAF who works in the industry found out the survey closes on June 15. I still don’t see anything from ODOT myself and they haven’t responded to my email. :eyeroll: