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2013 was the safest year ever on Oregon’s roads
The safety numbers are in (the preliminary numbers, at least) and they show that 2013 was likely the safest year ever on Oregon’s roads—and it was a better year on Oregon’s sidewalks, bike lanes, and crosswalks as well.
Based on preliminary data that will be finalized later in the year, Oregon saw 316 roadway fatalities, down about 6 percent from 2012. This is the lowest number of traffic fatalities since 1944, when Oregon’s population was just over 1 million and people drove a lot less (especially considering gas was rationed during World War II). Measured as a rate of fatalities per vehicle miles traveled, 2013 was likely the safest year since automobiles started to make an appearance. What’s more, 2013 marked the 15th straight year that Oregon’s fatal crash rate was better than the national average—after being worse than the nation as a whole for half a century.
The number of fatalities among vulnerable road users went down significantly from 2012 levels. Bicyclist fatalities fell by half, from 10 to 5, and motorcyclist deaths also fell significantly, from 47 to 32, a drop of more than 30 percent. Pedestrian deaths were down 12 percent, from 60 to 53.
Troy Costales, ODOT’s Transportation Safety Division Administrator, credited Oregon’s effective focus on all four of the traffic safety “Es”: enforcement, education, engineering, and emergency medical services.  “Reducing fatalities was no accident— our positive gains are a result of our comprehensive traffic safety effort. Not only do we have good laws on the books, a majority of Oregonians follow those laws and exhibit good behavior,” said Costales. “We’ve made significant investments in improving safety for all road users, including bicyclists and pedestrians.”
The news was bolstered by a report from Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety that examines whether states have effective traffic safety laws in place. Oregon rated as one of three states tied for the top spot in the nation, noting that we have 12 of the 15 recommended laws.
But Costales cautioned against resting on the state’s laurels. “This past year we made history for so many people who survived a traffic crash or avoided that tragedy altogether. But standing still isn’t an option or acceptable. Announcements like this are bittersweet, and we need to make the commitment to make 2014 an even safer year for all road users.”