US Department of Transportation Says the Number of Motor Vehicle Deaths in 2008 is Record Low Since 1961, and Portland, Oregon Exhibits Lowest Traffic Fatality Figures Ever

According to the US Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, about 37,313 people died in US traffic accidents last year. This annual estimated death toll is the lowest in 47 years when in 1961, 36,285 died. Last year’s fatality rate was also the lowest ever recorded at 1.28 deaths per 100 million vehicle miles traveled.

The decrease in overall traffic accidents last year was clearly reflected in the Oregon city of Portland, where its Bureau of Transportation is reporting that 20 people died in traffic accidents last year—15 motor vehicle occupants and 5 pedestrians—and there were no bicyclist deaths. In the past, there have only been three other years—in 2000, 2006, and 2007—when the number of Portland traffic crash deaths was below 30.

Total number of traffic deaths in Portland were particularly high in the 1930’s and 1940’s before neighborhood speed limits, traffic signals, and sidewalk extenders existed. Now, the city has over 1,000 speed bumps—boasting more than any US city. It also has red light cameras, photo radar vans, and over 350 miles of designated trails, bike lanes, and boulevards. The NHTSA lists Oregon (at 96.3%) as one of the 16 US states where seat belt use is 90% or more.

According to traffic safety specialist Greg Raisman, the fact that more people are biking and walking makes them more cautious when they do get behind the wheel of a motor vehicle. This is another reason why there were less Portland motor vehicle deaths last year.

Despite these improvements, there are still some areas that are considered dangerous corridors for potentially deadly Portland traffic accidents:

• Burnside Street (beginning from Southeast 20th Avenue to Northwest Cornwall Road)
• Southeast Foster Road (from 52nd to 92nd Avenues)
• 82nd Avenue (stretching from Northeast Columbia Blvd to Southeast Clatsop Street)
• North Lombard Street (from Williams Ave to the St. Johns Bridge)
• Southeast Division Street (from 82nd Avenue to 148th Street)

The decrease in Portland motor vehicle deaths, is of course, excellent, but Oregon car crashes and injuries and fatalities still happen and can be grounds for a personal injury or wrongful death claim if there are any injuries or fatalities.

Accident fatalities in 2008 lowest in Portland history, TheOutlookOnline.com, April 2, 2009
U.S. Transportation Secretary LaHood Announces Record Low Traffic Deaths, Improved State Seat Belt Use, NHTSA, April 6, 2009
Seat Belt Use in 2008—Use Rates in the States and Territories (PDF)

Related Web Resources:
City of Portland, Office of Transportation
US Department of Transportation

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