Articles Posted in Car Accidents

One of the deadliest stretches of road in our city will see radical changes beginning today. According to The Oregonian automated speed cameras “will be activated along the 3/4 –mile stretch of Southeast Division Street between 148th and 162nd avenues.” This comes just four days after the city council voted to lower the speed limit along a broader stretch of the road, running from Southeast 87th Avenue to 154th Avenue.

While the speed limit cameras have been in the works for some time (a state law approving their use was passed in 2015) the choice of Southeast Division as the site for one of the first sets installed is evidence of how much of a problem this stretch of road has become. Last week The Oregonian quoted Dan Saltzman, the City Commissioner who oversees the Portland Transportation Bureau, referring to Southeast Division as “a death corridor.” The newspaper noted that of Portland’s 44 traffic fatalities last year five took place on this one stretch of road. The 2016 tally of fatal Portland auto accidents was the highest since 2003, and the concentration of so many deaths in such a small area made a strong case for action.

According to KGW the city transportation division “used a little-known state law to enable the Portland City Commission to quickly lower the speed limit. Commissioners used their emergency safety authority to reduce the speed limit with Thursday’s vote.” Normally it is state officials who control the setting and changing of speed limits. The move drops the speed limit in the area from 35 mph to 30 mph, but it is only effective for 120 days. Saltzman and other city officials said the statistics along Southeast Division cried out for immediate action. The city government hopes state officials will move to make the new lower limit permanent before the four-month measure expires and are preparing to file required paperwork requesting the change.

Controversy over a $1.45 million settlement between the state and the families of two state employees who died in an Oregon highway crash in 2014 has caused some to lose sight of the real importance of the case. As The Oregonian reported over the weekend, the settlement was relatively large by Oregon standards, but, as lawyers consulted by the newspaper noted, that may be because “the (victims’) estates had a strong case against the state.”

According to the newspaper the couple, both employees of the Oregon State Hospital, died in the fall of 2014 “when a pickup veered across I-5 and hit… (their) 1993 Nissan Sentra head-on. From a legal perspective there were two especially important points to note about this Oregon wrongful death case. The first is something relatively rare – a successful lawsuit focused mainly on faulty road design. The second is the way that this incident demonstrates the careful weighing of responsibility our courts are called on to make in cases like this.

As The Oregonian writes, the argument that the man and woman’s deaths were the result mainly of faulty road design was particularly strong. “In the month after their deaths, an investigation by The Oregonian found that the Oregon Department of Transportation had delayed the installation of a median cable barrier on that 5-mile stretch of freeway despite public recognition of the need for it dating back to 1996.” Had a proper cable barrier been in place there is a strong possibility that the pickup would never have been able to cross all the way into the opposite lane.

A single-car crash last weekend near Arlington is drawing attention to the laws and legal issues surrounding seat belt use here in Oregon.

According to a report in The Oregonian the Interstate-84 fatal Oregon car crash took place in the early hours of Sunday morning, near milepost 132 when a 1999 Chevrolet SUV traveling in the westbound lane “for unknown reasons… left the roadway and crashed through the guardrail on the north side of the freeway.” The vehicle’s driver “was taken by Life Flight to Kadlec Regional Medical Center in Richland, Washington, and he died on the way, according to state police.”

The vehicle also was carrying a passenger, a 23-year-old Portland man. According to the newspaper he was taken the OHSU hospital where he was admitted in critical condition.

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.

A three-vehicle Oregon car accident near Tillamook this weekend took the life of a 79 year old man from Aloha, Oregon in Washington County.

The Oregonian, citing the Oregon State Police, reports that the accident took place on State Route 6 Saturday afternoon when “a 2013 Hyundai Elantra… was stopped on Wilson River Loop and attempting to turn east onto Oregon 6 when it pulled out in front of a westbound 2003 Chevrolet Silverado. The Silverado’s 16-year-old driver attempted but was unable to stop and collided with the driver’s side of the sedan.” As the crash unfolded both of the vehicles then hit a third.

The driver of the Elantra was pronounced dead at the scene of the accident, according to The Oregonian, while his passenger, a 78-year-old woman was “airlifted to a Portland-area hospital.” There were no reported injuries to either the teenager driving the Silverado or to any of the three people in the third vehicle – among them a three-year-old child. According to the newspaper all of the occupants of all three vehicles were wearing seat belts.

The deaths of three teens in three separate Oregon car crashes earlier this month is leading some observers to call for a rethinking of the state’s teen driving laws, according to The Oregonian.

“In 1999 the state passed a graduated driver’s license law for people under 18, requiring a period of supervised driving and a six-month ban on having other teenagers in the car,” the newspaper notes. Over the first eight years that the law was in effect the result was a dramatic fall in the rate of fatal car crashes involving Oregon teenagers. “The number of crashes involving teen drivers plummeted 29 percent, from 6001 to 4279,” according to the newspaper.

The recent accidents, however, highlight another trend: the fact that accident rates among teens are slowly rising again, leading some analysts to wonder whether the 1999 law has reached the limits of its effectiveness. The newspaper quotes a senior official from the Oregon Department of Transportation saying “with things leveling off, the question from a legislative point of view is what’s the next step? What else can we do?” As a result, according to The Oregonian, the ODOT is urging “lawmakers to put stricter limits on when drivers under 18 can have other teens riding along.”

An article published this week in the Salem Statesman-Journal highlights an alarming fact: in this one relatively small city “between December 26 and January 15 three vehicle crashes involving pedestrians resulted in four deaths.”

The paper goes on to note that “all three crashes took place in darkness” and that “no drivers have been found to be at fault.” After so many fatal Salem pedestrian accidents in such a short period of time, however, some sort of an investigation is warranted – one that goes beyond the three individual accidents to look at broader traffic, pedestrian and biking patterns in an effort to make the city’s streets safer. The article quotes a 63-year-old South Salem resident who points out that the problem is the city’s large number of unmarked crosswalks. “At least 95 percent of cars do not even slow down, although they are required by law to stop and wait for you to cross,” he said.

The sudden rise in fatal pedestrian accidents in Salem is particularly troublesome because at the time of the first one, on December 26, the city had not witnessed a fatal pedestrian accident in over a year. The paper also notes that while fatalities are rare, accidents themselves are not. “Between December 1, 2013 and April 30, 2014 there were 22 pedestrian-related crashes in Salem that injured 25 people, according to data from the Oregon Department of Transportation” the newspaper reports.

A recent story in the Salem Statesman-Journal highlighted some critical changes the ODOT is now beginning to implement in the name of traffic safety, but did an equally good job of drawing attention to how those changes get approved.

The article focused on the September 24 death of a well-known Salem-area psychiatrist in a fatal Oregon car crash on I-5. According to the newspaper the accident took place when a vehicle traveling the interstate highway in the other direction crossed the median. The psychiatrist died at the scene. A colleague who was travelling with him died at an area hospital a few days later from injuries suffered in the crash.

The circumstances of the accident raise longer-term questions about Oregon wrongful death, and whether the fatal crash may prompt a legal action. More immediately, what made the reaction to this accident different was the outpouring of emotion from the Salem community, an outpouring which only increased when the Statesman-Journal revealed “that in the previous 10 years there had been 20 crashes along I-5 in Salem that involved vehicles crossing the center median into oncoming traffic.” The paper noted that the ODOT has plans to install simple cable-like barriers along that stretch of the highway. Cable barriers have been shown to be a relatively inexpensive way to prevent crossover crashes. The paper also discovered, however, that bureaucracy and political infighting had led to progress implementing the plan to install the barriers moving slowly at best. Indeed, a low-bidder to carry out the work was not scheduled to be selected until next February, even though, the paper reported, a decision in principle to move forward had been reached some time ago.

The non-profit National Safety Council has published an excellent tip sheet to help parents prepare teen drivers for the special challenges that come with winter.

Oregon car accidents can happen any time of the year, of course, but winter is different. As the website notes: “Winter conditions can challenge even the most experienced drivers. It is incumbent upon a parent to prepare a teen as best as possible for driving under those difficult circumstances that adverse weather brings.”

Many of these recommendations are so basic that one might overlook them, but they bear repeating: slow down, factor in more travel time to get from point A to point B so you don’t unconsciously feel a need to rush; gently test a moving car’s brakes when ice and snow are present to get a sense of road conditions; don’t use high beams when it is snowing. Don’t use the cruise control in the snow either. Keep a greater distance between vehicles than one does in easier driving conditions.

The death of a Portland bike rider on Barbur Boulevard last August has given new urgency to proposals to change the balance of cars and bikes along this important commuting artery.

As a recent article in The Oregonian outlines, an advocacy group, the Bicycle Transportation Alliance, is urging the ODOT “to put a harrowing section of the high-speed boulevard on a “road diet.” Essentially the group wants a northbound auto lane removed to make space for about two miles of buffered bike lanes and pedestrian paths in both directions of the critical north-south corridor.”

As one might expect many drivers are unhappy with this plan, citing the fact that, according to The Oregonian, ODOT relies on Barbur to relieve rush-hour traffic pressure on I-5. What is different about this dispute is the fact that commuting has emerged as the focus for both sides in this debate. Unusually for these sort of debates, the question is not one of balancing roadways against recreational bikeways but, rather, of balancing the needs of different types of commuters in a city that prides itself on its bike-friendly attitude. The paper reports that “nearly 800 bicycle commuters a day” travel along the route. For the cycling community Barbur is especially important as it offers a relatively flat route through hilly Southwest Portland.