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Warmer days bring busier, riskier highways

By KTVZ.COM news sources
Published On: May 06 2014 04:03:49 PM CDT
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BEND, Ore. -

"Safety" is something everyone wants, but actions often tell a different story. Throughout the month of May, there will be plenty of opportunities in communities around the state for people to demonstrate just how important safety is to them.

Governor John Kitzhaber has shown his support by proclaiming May "Transportation Safety Awareness Month."

"Motor vehicle crash injuries are one of the leading causes of death and hospitalization in Oregon, and are the second leading cause of injury-related death for all Oregonians," Kitzhaber wrote in the proclamation. "I encourage all Oregonians to put safety first."

Over two decades committed to work zone safety

May is traditionally the kick-off for road construction season in Oregon. Together with our public and private sector partners, we have been committed to work zone safety for decades. This year marks the 25th year that Oregonians are participating in the "Give 'Em a Brake" work zone safety campaign. Once again, construction work zones will appear on streets, highways and bridges statewide. Billboards, bus boards and public service announcements will remind people to "Respect the Cone Zone" and that "Fines Double 24/7. Workers or Not." That means pay attention and slow down in work zones. How Oregonians drive in work zones has a direct impact on their own safety, as well as the safety of workers. Four people died in work zone crashes in 2013.

Fatality rate declines over the years

Oregon's goal is to continue the state's downward trend in all traffic-related fatalities. Preliminary figures show there were 22 less fatalities in 2013 than 2012 (315* in 2013; 337 in 2012). The five-year moving average fatality rate per 100 million VMT is down 23 percent. Still, education, enforcement, engineering efforts and emergency response must continue: the goal of ODOT's Transportation Safety Division, according to its Safety Plan, is zero fatalities on Oregon's highways.

Awareness and actions are keys to transportation safety

Even though we are making progress toward our goal of zero fatalities on Oregon highways, there's still a lot to do. Education, enforcement, engineering efforts and emergency response must continue. It takes a team approach to improve safety in our transportation system. With the help of our partners, along with thousands of volunteers around the state, we are helping people understand how important it is to do the right thing, whether it's slowing down in a work zone, putting your child in a booster seat or taking the car keys from a friend who has had too much to drink.

"It doesn't matter if you're traveling by car, bus, walking or riding, we want people to get where they're going safely," said Troy E. Costales, ODOT Transportation Safety Division administrator.

The week of May 5-9, highway signs will urge motorists to drive safely through work zones. Later this month, other work zone safety activities will coincide with the publication of Oregon's annual road construction map. Towards the end of May, Oregon law enforcement will join the national "Click It or Ticket" campaign, focusing on pickup truck and nighttime safety belt use. Recent U.S. DOT research suggests that nationwide restraint use is lowest at night, so officers will be paying extra attention in the evenings, while also watching for proper buckling up of child passengers. Parents are encouraged to attend one of the numerous, free child safety seat clinics held around the state; a calendar is available at www.childsafetyseat.org.

May is Bike Month too

May 7 to Bike to School Day; it provides an opportunity for schools across the country to join together to celebrate and to build off of the energy of National Bike Month. In addition, the Oregon Walk + Bike Challenge is a friendly competition aimed at encouraging more kids and families to walk and bike to and from school and throughout their neighborhoods. During the challenge, school coordinators track the number of students biking, walking, and skating to school throughout the month. At the end of the challenge, prizes go to the schools that log the most biking trips, the most walking trips, largest total number of students walking and biking, and highest percentage of students (out of the total school population) walking and biking. Get more information online, http://walknbike.org/walk-bike-challenge-month

"Each and every day, no matter the time of year, when we use the roads and streets in Oregon, we need to take responsibility to keep ourselves and those around us safe," Costales said. "We encourage you to take advantage of the events near you."

No matter how you travel, there are some simple steps you can take to improve safety:

  • Pay attention An inattentive driver is the most common cause of work zone crashes.
  • Buckle up every time. Safety belts and child safety seats are the biggest contributors to saving lives in crashes.
  • Pedestrians and bicyclists: Stay alert, be predictable, follow traffic signals, wear light-colored or reflective clothing, and be especially careful at intersections.
  • Share the road. Check your mirrors and blind spots before changing lanes. Don't tailgate
  • Don't drive, walk or ride impaired. Alcohol, illegal drugs and even some legal drugs can reduce the ability to use good judgment.
  • Obey the speed limit. Excessive speed is a factor in many crashes and the most common one in crashes that result in fatalities.

Additional statistics, historical data, fact sheets and other resources are available on the ODOT website.

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