Bend-area Car Crashes Put US-97 in Spotlight

As the Bend Bulletin notes in a recent article, two recent crashes near the Central Oregon city are drawing attention to safety issues on US-97. The newspaper notes that just on Tuesday of last week two Oregon car crashes took place on the same stretch of the road highlighting an area that “has long been considered perilous for its intersections and lack of median barriers.”

The paper reports that an elderly man visiting from the Midwest was involved in a head-on crash Tuesday morning when he “tried to turn north from a private driveway on the southbound side” of the road. No one suffered life-threatening injuries in that particular Oregon car crash, but later in the day a six-year-old girl was critically hurt and seven other people suffered less serious injuries “when a Redmond woman traveling southbound crossed into the northbound lanes” in the same area of Highway 97.

Both of these accidents involved cars, but the heavy presence of semi-trucks along this stretch of road is a reminder that even more serious accidents can and do take place when larger vehicles are involved.

As is often the case in stories like this the good news is that ways to fix the problem are relatively easy to identify, but the bad news is that funding to implement these critical safety upgrades is difficult to come by. According to the Bulletin “major safety upgrades to the highway… will likely not be seen until after 2019, according to the Oregon Department of Transportation.” These include “adding concrete barriers and six locations for J-turns… (which) is expected to cost $9 million.” That money, the newspaper notes, will almost certainly have to come from the state, hence the relatively long time frame for implementation.

At the national level there has been a lot of talk recently about the need to improve our nation’s infrastructure. The focus is usually on crumbling bridges and embarrassingly dingy airports, but basic safety improvements along our highways also deserve attention. As an Oregon and Washington truck accident attorney I am all too aware of the problems caused by roadways designed for a different era when cars and trucks were smaller and slower-moving. The problem only gets worse when the roads themselves have not been properly maintained and upgraded over a period of years, or even decades. Our country can only move forward when we invest in its future. At the most fundamental level that means working to make driving a safer experience for everyone. When the solutions are simple and clear, it should not take four or five years to find the funds and do the work.

 

The Bulletin: Two Recent Crashes Highlight US Highway 97 Perils