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Traffic fatalities stay down
Preliminary figures for 2011 show that Oregon continues to have a lower number of fatalities than in past years—and a crash rate well below the national average. Although preliminary figures show ten more fatalities in 2011 than the previous year (327* in 2011 versus 317 in 2010), comparing the last two years to any previous two-year period shows a clear improvement in safety.  For example, the 644 fatalities in 2010 and 2011 is an 18 percent reduction from the 788 in 2008-09.
“In 2010, we had 175 fatality-free days, and we expect the number to be very close to that for 2011,” said Troy E. Costales, division administrator. “Our strategy is to do what we can to make that single fatality free day become a weekend, then a week and eventually a month – and more.”
The fatalities crash rate, which is a reflection of fatalities and miles traveled in the state, also remains low. Analysts compare fatalities to “vehicle miles traveled” to assess safety, and Oregon’s rate for 2011 is projected to be .96 (that means .96 lives lost – fewer than one on average – per 100 million miles traveled). This preliminary rate is the second lowest rate in Oregon motor vehicle history: 2010 had the lowest crash rate at .94 lives lost per 100 million miles traveled. The national crash rate average for 2010 was 1.09.
Bicycle fatalities did not go down in 2011; in fact, bicycle fatalities resulting from car crashes more than doubled from 2010 to 2011 (from 7 to 15*), and local governments are already doing more to improve safety, such as adding dedicated, green-painted bicycle lanes. Still, increased awareness on the parts of both drivers and riders is critical. ODOT’s Safety Division is supporting a “Lighten Up… And Be Seen At Night” campaign to remind bicyclists how important it is to use lights and wear bright, reflective clothing.
*Preliminary; figures will be final in mid-2012.