The number of deaths statewide in Oregon car crashes has jumped by 31 percent over the last year – a worrying statistic that, according to The Oregonian, state officials are unsure how to explain.
A recent article in the newspaper reported that “in the year that ended September 23, the state tallied 312 traffic fatalities, up from 238 for the same time period the year before… Pedestrian deaths soared by 64 percent to 54.”
Exactly why this is happening is not clear. The newspaper reports that in presenting the figures to a state senate committee in Salem, officials from the Oregon Department of Transportation called the numbers “pretty sobering” and “said at the hearing that the usual factors – speeding, no seatbelts, drunken and distracted driving – had something to do with the increase, but (the officials) said they’re still looking for solutions.” The Oregonian quotes one ODOT official telling the committee: “There’s no single factor, which means there’s no silver bullet.”
Still, one senator who attended the hearing felt the data showed a few things clearly. “I have to think a lot of it has to do with distracted drivers. Texting and all that, it’s a big deal,” Sen. Lee Beyer of Springfield told The Oregonian. The ODOT’s data show that 60 percent “of fatal crashes involved a car drifting from its lane, probably because of a cellphone or some other distraction,” the newspaper noted.
As a Portland car crash attorney with a special interest in distracted driving I am distressed by these numbers, but not especially surprised. As this blog chronicles month in and month out, there are far too many people who ignore Oregon’s distracted driving laws or drink and drive despite years of educational efforts on both issues. Because driving is so much a part of our culture – so integral to our daily lives – we often forget that it is inherently dangerous, and that getting behind the wheel of any vehicle involves an enormous amount of responsibility. Every driver needs to be aware not only of his own safety and that of friends and loved ones in the car, but also of his or her responsibility for the safety of everyone else on the road.
The Oregonian: More Oregonians are dying in car crashes, new data show