100 years of transportation safety: learning from the past, working toward a zero fatality future
April 30, 2013
For more information, contact Sally Ridenour (503) 986-3359 or Shelley Snow (503) 881-5362
In 1913 when the Oregon Legislature created the State Highway Department, transportation safety meant Oregonians trying to share dirt roads safely with horses, pack animals, bicycles, pedestrians and the latest technology - automobiles. A lot has changed in the last 100 years. The State Highway Department is now the Oregon Department of Transportation and hybrid vehicles now travel Oregon’s 34,000* miles of paved roads. Yet some things have remained the same: Oregonians’ commitment to transportation safety and sharing the roads safely.
Throughout the month of May, there will be plenty of opportunities in communities around the state for people to demonstrate just how important safety is to them. Governor Kitzhaber has shown his support by proclaiming May as “Transportation Safety Awareness Month
“Motor vehicle traffic injuries are one of the leading causes of death and hospitalization in Oregon, and are the second leading cause of injury-related death for all Oregonians,” Kitzhaber wrote in the proclamation. “I encourage all Oregonians to put safety first.”
Over two decades committed to work zone safety
May is traditionally the kick-off for road construction season in Oregon. Together with our public and private sector partners, we have been committed to work zone safety
for decades. This year marks the 24th year that Oregonians are participating in the “Give ‘Em a Brake” work zone safety campaign. Once again, construction work zones will appear on streets, highways and bridges statewide. Billboards, bus boards and public service announcements will remind people to “Respect the Cone Zone” and that “Fines Double 24/7. Workers or Not.” That means pay attention and slow down in work zones. How Oregonians drive in work zones has a direct impact on their own safety, as well as the safety of workers. Eleven people died in work zone crashes in 2011.
Fatality rate declines over the years
Oregon’s goal is to continue the state’s downward trend in all traffic-related fatalities. Back in 1936, the first year that statewide crash statistics were available, there were 34,880 crashes resulting in 375 fatalities. There were 338,101 registered vehicles and statewide vehicle miles traveled were 2,629,920,479. The fatality rate in 1936 was 14.26 deaths per million miles traveled. Since then, the number of traffic fatalities has declined steadily even though the number of registered vehicles and the VMT increased steadily. In 2011, crashes killed 331 people in Oregon. There were 4,078,448 vehicles registered and statewide VMT was 33,376,400,000. Oregon’s fatality rate is .99 deaths per million miles traveled. The national fatality rate is 1.1 per million miles traveled. [See traffic fatality rate charts and tables (pdf), including historic crash statistics
, a graph of statistics
from the last several decades, Oregon fatality rate chart
and Oregon vs. national fatality rate statistics
Awareness and actions are keys to transportation safety
Even though we are making progress toward our goal of zero fatalities on Oregon highways, there’s still a lot to do. Education, enforcement, engineering efforts and emergency response must continue. It takes a team approach to improve safety in our transportation system. With the help of our partners, along with thousands of volunteers around the state, we are helping people understand how important it is to do the right thing, whether it’s slowing down in a work zone, putting your child in a booster seat or taking the car keys from a friend who has had too much to drink.
“It doesn’t matter if you’re traveling by car, bus, walking or riding, we want people to get where they’re going safely,” said Troy E. Costales, ODOT Transportation Safety Division administrator.
The week of May 6-10, highway signs will urge motorists to drive safely through work zones
. Later this month, other work zone safety activities will coincide with the publication of Oregon’s annual road construction map. Towards the end of May, Oregon law enforcement will join the national "Click It or Ticket" campaign, focusing on pickup truck and nighttime safety belt use. Recent U.S. DOT research suggests that nationwide restraint use is lowest at night, so officers will be paying extra attention in the evenings, while also watching for proper buckling up of child passengers. Parents are encouraged to attend one of the numerous, free child safety seat clinics held around the state; a calendar is available at www.childsafetyseat.org
“Each and every day, no matter the time of year, when we use the roads and streets in Oregon, we need to take responsibility to keep ourselves and those around us safe,” Costales said. “We encourage you to take advantage of the events near you.”
No matter how you travel, there are some simple steps you can take to improve safety:
- Pay attention: your life depends on it. An inattentive driver is the most common cause of work zone crashes.
- Buckle up every time. Safety belts and child safety seats are the biggest contributors to saving lives in crashes.
- Pedestrians and bicyclists: Stay alert, be predictable, follow traffic signals, wear light-colored or reflective clothing, and be especially careful at intersections.
- Share the road. Check your mirrors and blind spots before changing lanes. Don’t tailgate.
- Don’t drive, walk or ride impaired. Alcohol, illegal drugs and even some legal drugs can reduce the ability to use good judgment.
- Obey the speed limit. Excessive speed is a factor in many crashes and the most common one in crashes that result in fatalities.
Additional statistics, historical data, fact sheets and other resources are available on the ODOT website.