As we head into another long holiday weekend this is a good moment to remember the importance of road and traffic safety. This year caution is especially important because 2016 is already shaping up as an unusually deadly year both here in Oregon and nationwide.
As a recent article in The Columbian noted, “traffic fatalities were up 9 percent in the first six months of this year compared with the same period last year.” More alarmingly, however, Oregon was second in the nation (trailing only Vermont) in the extent to which traffic deaths have increased since 2014. Two years ago the state recorded 128 traffic fatalities during the first half of the year. This year the figure was 217 – a stunning 70 percent increase. Those numbers are all the more worrying when they are combined with the just-released estimate from the National Safety Council that some 438 people will lose their lives in traffic accidents nationwide over the holiday weekend (defined as 6pm local time on Friday through 11:59pm on Monday). In addition the Council estimates that the holiday period will see 50,300 people injured seriously enough that they will need to consult a doctor or another medical professional. Historically Labor Day sees more traffic accidents than most other holiday periods, the council’s news release notes.
There are, of course, many causes for traffic deaths, but on weekends like Labor Day attention inevitably focuses on drunk driving. A news release from the Oregon State Police warns motorists both to expect “heavy traffic volumes” and to “get a designated driver (plan ahead) if you plan on consuming intoxicating substances.”
That last point is especially important because, as the Lincoln City News Guard reports, both local and state police “will be joining forces with other law enforcement agencies across the nation to ramp up their enforcement efforts against drunk driving as part of a national crackdown over the Labor Day weekend period.” In many places this will mean extra police patrols as well as checkpoints where spot sobriety tests are administered. A first offense DUII here in Oregon can lead to fines of up to $2000 and a year in jail, as well as a lengthy driving license suspension. For repeat offenders the penalties are far stiffer.
And this is as it should be. As an Oregon drunk driving victims’ lawyer I see far too many families that are struggling to cope with the aftermath of other people’s reckless behavior. In addition to the criminal penalties outlined above, Oregon DUII can lead to significant trauma for victims and their families. It is also worth noting that under our state’s dram shop laws liability for reckless, even lethal, behavior can extend back to bartenders, wait staff or store clerks if they sell or serve alcohol to someone who is already intoxicated. As Oregon statutes 471.565 detail, a bar, liquor store or even the host of a party bears responsibility for an accident if there is “clear and convincing evidence” that alcohol was served to the person who later caused the accident “while the patron or guest was visibly intoxicated.”
The simple way to avoid all of these potential consequences is to avoid drinking and driving in the first place – and to be aware of how much your guests have consumed if you are hosting a party. Have a safe, happy and healthy holiday weekend!
Lincoln City News Guard: Increased DUII enforcement efforts during Labor Day Weekend
The Columbian: Traffic fatalities surge in first half of 2016; Oregon 2nd in increases
Oregon State Police Labor Day Weekend News Release
National Safety Council: Labor Day 2016 Holiday Traffic Fatality Estimate