Safety” emphasized in statewide, month-long campaign
100 years of transportation safety:
learning from the past, working toward a zero fatality future
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, such as 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 John Kitzhaber, M.D. has shown his
support by proclaiming May “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
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. Seven people died in work zone
crashes in 2011. In 1994, the first year that ODOT collected data on work zone
crashes, 19 people died.
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.
Awareness and actions are keys to
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.
During the first week
in May, 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. Don’t
tailgate; check your mirrors and blind spots before changing lanes.
Don’t drive, walk or ride impaired. Alcohol,
illegal drugs and even some legal drugs can reduce the ability to use good
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.
*Centerline mileage for state, county and
city paved highways, roads and streets. Source: ODOT Oregon Mileage Report 2009
Shelley M. Snow, ODOT
355 Capitol St. NE, MS
Salem OR 97301
direct: (503) 986-3438
cell: (503) 881-5362