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Driving Safely is Something to Celebrate This Fourth of July Holiday Weekend
Lieutenant Gregg Hastings
Public Information Officer
(503) 731-3020 ext. 247
Shelley Snow
ODOT Public Affairs
(503) 986-3438

(Media ride-along request should be directed to your local Oregon State Police office)

It might look like a bottle rocket traveling down the road but in reality it is a speeding, dangerous driver that will be one of the concerns for Oregon police officers during the 54-hour Fourth of July holiday period starting 6:00 p.m., Friday, July 3rd, through 11:59 p.m., Sunday, July 5th.  The planned enhanced enforcement efforts aim to stop drivers before they become involved in a fatal traffic crash this holiday weekend, during a period in which the second deadliest day of the year - July 4th - falls, mostly due to impaired driving.

According to statistics provided by ODOT's Fatality Analysis Reporting Unit (FARS), the Fourth of July holiday period is the deadliest holiday period of the year.  Since 1970, FARS statistics show 292 fatalities have occurred during Oregon's Independence Day holiday. Half of Oregon's fatalities were in alcohol-involved crashes.  During last year's 78-hour holiday period, six people died in 6 separate traffic crashes that occurred in Coos, Gilliam, Linn (2), Malheur and Multnomah counties.

FARS statistics show the deadliest Fourth of July holiday weekends occurred during 78-hour reporting periods as reflected in following past reports:

19 fatalities - 1980
17 fatalities - 1977
12 fatalities - 1998
11 fatalities - 1971 and 1986

During the last 54-hour Fourth of July holiday period in 2004, FARS statistics indicate five people died in Oregon traffic crashes.

OSP Superintendent Timothy McLain has again committed the Department's participation in OPERATION C.A.R.E. (Combined Accident Reduction Effort) through increased enforcement of those hazardous violations that are factors in traffic crashes on our nation's highways including intoxicated, reckless, and fatigued driving. Extra OSP troopers, county deputies and city police officers will be working to increase enforcement and assistance using ODOT-provided overtime grant funds aimed at highway safety dangers.

"It has been 30 years since Oregon had a fatal-free Fourth of July holiday weekend," said Superintendent McLain. "Operation C.A.R.E. is one of our strategies working on roadways inside and outside of Oregon with other public safety agencies to try and keep our highways safe throughout the holiday weekend."

Leading up to this holiday weekend, police officers around the country have stepped up enforcement efforts since June 21st against impaired driving as part of the national crackdown "Drunk Driving. Over the Limit. Under Arrest" campaign that will run through July 5th.

OSP troopers last year during the Fourth of July holiday period responded to approximately 100 traffic crashes, reported 94 DUII arrests, issued nearly 1,300 speed-related citations and over 100 safety restraint violation citations, and assisted nearly 500 disabled motorists.

Oregon is also experiencing the highest volume of highway construction in more than 50 years. Actual roadwork will pause for the holiday, but work zones will still be marked and will still require slower speeds.

"A successful holiday weekend means arriving back home safely," said Matt Garrett, director of the Oregon Department of Transportation. "So please pay attention to the important task at hand, be alert and slow down in work zones."

The Oregon State Police and Oregon Department of Transportation offer the following safety reminders for holiday travel:

* Be watchful for emergency vehicles displaying required warning lights and using emergency equipment. Yield when required and maintain a safe distance when they are working on our highways.
* Get plenty of rest before starting out. Fatigued drivers are more frequent during holiday weekends because of increased travel and activity. Allow plenty of time to reach your destination.
* Expect the unexpected. Be informed and prepared when traveling on any of our highways.
* When traveling anywhere, plan ahead and take known routes if possible. For road conditions in Oregon, call 5-1-1 or (800) 977-ODOT (6368). Outside Oregon, dial (503) 588-2941. Visiting TripCheck.com on the Internet provides information on road and weather conditions, incidents and traffic delays, and links to numerous cameras along major routes.
* With nicer weather and rising gas prices, more motorcycles and bicycles are being used on our highways. Be on the lookout and keep from being distracted from your driving task.
* If considering a remote route that you have never traveled on, don't hesitate to contact available road and weather condition phone number or Internet resources, or contact police or highway department officials.
* Be aware that many road construction projects are underway around the state. The scope of work zones is projected to continue to increase through implementation of the Oregon Transportation Improvement Act, the biggest overhaul and modernization of Oregon highways and bridges in decades.
* Even when workers are not present, all work zone speed limits still apply and fines double. Inactive work zones still have equipment, detours, and incomplete changes in the roadway so drivers need to slow down and be alert.
* Always use safety restraints and child safety seats correctly.
* Don't drink and drive.

Superintendent McLain and Director Garrett are calling on all motorists to help keep our highways and city streets safe by immediately reporting aggressive, dangerous and intoxicated drivers to 9-1-1 or the Oregon State Police at 1-800-24DRUNK (1-800-243-7865).