An annual report compiled by Allstate insurance on driving safety across the nation has good and bad news for Portland, according to The Oregonian. The good news is that Portland jumped nine spots in the company’s ranking of driving safety in 200 American cities. The bad news is that still left us in 181stplace.
The newspaper notes that this also puts Portland “dead last among the largest cities in the Pacific Northwest based on the insurance agency’s analysis of crash frequency based on claims submitted. According to the rankings, the average Portland driver is involved in a crash every seven years, the average Seattle driver experiences a crash every 7.7 years. The average driver in Boise, which ranked second overall in the nation for safest drivers, was involved in a crash every 13.7 years. The national average is one crash every 10.6 years.” The survey identified Brownsville, Texas as the safest American city for drivers. Baltimore occupied last-place on the Allstate table.
The two other cities in the survey received notably better rankings than Portland. Eugene is number 34 on the list. Salem is number 102. Interestingly, Vancouver, Washington – just across the river from Portland – has a substantially better, if still less than stellar, ranking of 114.
The news release accompanying the report (see link below) identifies some common sense issues that communities around the country continue to grapple with, such as distracted driving, DUII/impaired driving and the need for greater enforcement of speed limits. It is also important to remember that unsafe streets and roads are unsafe for everyone – not just cars and drivers. Portland’s low ranking as a city for drivers also makes it a worse place to be a cyclist or pedestrian.
Police and prosecutors often focus on Oregon’s reckless driving (ORS 811.140) and careless driving (ORS 811.135) laws, but when helping victims of accidents our civil system tends to focus on other issues such as speeding, unlawful left turns or making a dangerous right turn across a bike lane. As I have noted over the last few weeks new laws signed this spring and summer by the governor will give both pedestrians and cyclists more protection in this regard when they come into effect next year. As I have written in the past, Portland (and many other communities around the nation) are attempting also trying to take a broader approach to road and traffic problems through initiatives like Vision Zero.
As a Portland attorney who spends many days trying to help the victims of reckless or careless drivers these statutes are among the most important sections of the Oregon legal code. They lay the basis on which more complex cases can be made that help survivors and loved ones obtain the justice they deserve after an accident, or even a near-miss. It is only by enforcing accountability that we will ultimately improve everyone’s safety, and raise our city’s ranking as a place to drive.