In this Blog category you will find articles about motor vehicle accidents and how to avoid them. Personal Injury suits and insurance claims may require the help of an attorney. A good lawyer can protect your rights under the law.
A strong, moisture-laden eastern Pacific Jetstream brought heavy rain to the Pacific Northwest in February, creating landslides throughout Oregon.
Landslides Block Highway 36 Near Eugene
In just two days from February 16 through 17, heavy rains triggered a landslide in the Coast Range, blocking Highway 36 at milepost 25 two miles west of Triangle Lake, which is about 35 miles northwest of Eugene. Crews cleared the obstruction on the 17th and reopened both lanes of highway to traffic. By afternoon a much larger slide entirely blocked both lanes of the highway, closing the road once again.
Hillside Slides Close Portland West Hills Roads
Landslides are a recurring feature in the Portland West Hills. In February 1996, a major storm induced hundreds of landslides in the West Hills. Smaller numbers of landslides occur every few years in the area during extended rainy periods and intense storms.
This year on February 7th, a hillside slide blocked two lanes of westbound traffic along Highway 26 west of the Vista Ridge tunnel. On the same day, a landslide forced crews to close a section of Northwest Cornell Road.
A month earlier, a section of earth, trees and mud tumbled into the canyon below onto Newbury Road, which may remain closed into summer 2017 while crews work to repair the stretch between Highway 30 and Skyline Road.
How to Avoid a Landslide
Slides tend to occur after several hours or days of heavy rain or rapid snow melt. During intense, prolonged rainfall, listen for advisories and warnings over local radio or TV or National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) weather radio. In western Oregon “intense” rainfall is considered 4% of average annual rainfall in a 12-hour period during the wet season. East of the Cascade Range “intense” rainfall is 2 inches in 4 hours.
If you are in an area susceptible to landslides and debris flow, consider leaving the area. Embankments along roadsides weakened by snowmelt or heavy rains are particularly susceptible to landslides. Any area, such as the Portland West Hills, that is composed of very weak or fractured materials resting on a steep slope will likely experience landslides.
Stay alert when driving, especially at night, watching carefully for collapsed pavement, mud, fallen rock, and other debris. Be particularly careful in areas marked as slide or rock-fall areas, and watch for signs with warnings or road closures.
The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife reports this winter a higher than usual number of deer and other wildlife on or near roadways as they move further down away from heavy mountain snow and into valley areas in search of food.
Animals foraging for food tend to follow the easiest path that will use the least amount of energy, which may lead them onto sections of highways or other transportation routes. Banks of snow along road shoulders may cause deer looking for a place to escape to panic and run into the path of vehicles
Wildlife Warning Signs Fail to Reduce Number of Crashes
Wildlife-vehicle crashes occur everywhere in the state, in both rural and urban settings. In 2014, ODOT reported Klamath, Lane and Jackson counties with the highest number of reported vehicle-wildlife crashes, followed by Clackamas and Deschutes counties.
To stimulate driver awareness, last year the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife installed wildlife warning signs, some with flashing lights, along U.S. 20 between Vale and Juntura. However, drivers tend to ignore them or forget about them if they don’t see wildlife in the area.
ODOT and ODFW Install Designated Wildlife Crossings
Using a more comprehensive approach to preventing animal vehicle crashes by managing wildlife, the Oregon Department and Transportation (ODOT) and Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) joined forces in 2012 to construct two sets of wildlife undercrossing structures on Highway 97, approximately fifteen miles south of Bend. The same year the project received the Exemplary Environmental Initiative award from the Federal Highway Administration, naming it as an example of an interagency collaborative approach using applied solutions and best available science in creative ways.
Four miles of 8-foot high fences along that stretch of Highway 97 channel 25 species of animals into using the underpasses, with four wildlife escape ramps on the northern and southern ends of the fence that allow animals trapped on the road the opportunity to jump over the top of the fence into open forest habitat. Six ElectroBraid TM mats also prevent wildlife from entering the road right of way at intersections. ODOT has also installed rocks, logs, and native plantings in the under-crossings to encourage small animal use. In 2014, ODFW reported a 90 percent reduction in roadkill in that area as a result of the improvements.
Be Watchful to Prevent Wildlife
Speeding is one of the leading causes of car wrecks because most drivers cannot control a vehicle that is moving at a high rate of speed.
In 1974, President Richard Nixon signed the Emergency Highway Energy Conservation Act, which included the National Maximum Speed Law (NMSL) that set the national speed limit at 55 mph. Following the enactment of the NMSL, car wreck fatalities decreased by the thousands.
After the enactment of the NMSL, many complained of government intrusiveness and argued that, since drivers were already exceeding posted 55 mph limits, setting speed limits should be left up to each state. In 1995, Congress responded to opponents of the law by repealing the NMSL and passing the National Highway System Designation Act, which reinstated the power to set speed limits to each state.
The Effect of NMSL Repeal on Car Accident Rate
In a September 2009 article published in the American Journal of Public Health titled “Long-Term Effects of Repealing the National Maximum Speed Limit in the United States,” researchers examined the long-term effects between 1995 and 2005 on rural interstates, where all US states had raised speed limits since the repeal, as well as on urban interstates and non-interstate roads, where many states had raised speed limits, and reported a 3.2% increase in road fatalities attributable to the raised speed limits on all road types in the United States. The highest increases were on rural interstates (9.1%) and urban interstates (4.0%). They estimated that, between 1995 and 2005, 12,545 deaths and 36,583 injuries in fatal crashes were attributable to increases in speed limits across the United States.
In the article, the researchers concluded that “Reduced speed limits and improved enforcement with speed camera networks could immediately reduce speeds and save lives, in addition to reducing gas consumption, cutting emissions of air pollutants, saving valuable years of productivity, and reducing the cost of motor vehicle crashes.”
The National Cooperative Highway Research Program (NCHRP) conducted its own study and published a report in 2006, to help guide state highway officials and policy makers in setting speed limits. It examined earlier studies, surveyed state transportation and police departments, and collected and analyzed relevant data. The NCHRP study found that increasing a speed limit from 55 to 65 mph on an “average” section of high speed road resulted in about a 3% increase in the total number of
As vehicles become more autonomous, we are already seeing cars equipped with headlights that automatically adjust to a car’s position to keep lights on the road ahead and not in the eyes of other drivers.
Adaptive headlights react to the steering, speed and elevation of the car, and automatically adjust to give the driver a clear view of the road ahead. The car lights turn their beams around each bend in the road, giving the driver a better view. Since adaptive headlights are directed at the road, glare of oncoming headlights is reduced for other drivers.
Self-Leveling System Included with Adaptive Headlights
Most adaptive headlights also include a self-leveling system, with a sensor that determines if the car is tilted forward or back. Driving over a bump, as the front of the car lifts up, electric servomotors in the headlights react to the level sensors and keep the headlights aimed down at the road.
Availability of Adaptive Headlights in the US
While already required on new cars in Europe, self-leveling headlights are only required on U.S. cars equipped with bi-xenon headlights, which are so bright that they would blind other drivers if they didn’t level themselves. At this time, adaptive headlights are not standard equipment on most cars in the U.S., and only a few companies offer them as options.
Adaptive Cornering Lights Featured on Some Models
Some BMW models are equipped with cornering lights. If a car has fog lights, small reflectors swivel to direct the fog lights off to the side. Without fog lights, a side-directed lamp is installed with the headlights. When the car is moving slower than 25 mph and turning, the cornering lights can illuminate up to 80 degrees of additional area to the side of the car. When the car speeds up or finishes turning, the lights automatically turn off. If the car is not moving or is moving in reverse, the adaptive headlights will not activate, keeping the lights from blinding other drivers.
Adaptive Brake Lights Coming in the Future
In the next few years production models will appear that feature adaptive brake lights, which will allow drivers to see not just a car in front applying the brakes, but how hard the driver is applying the brakes. This will give drivers an indication of trouble ahead and how much they need to slow down. When a driver presses hard on
While planes will be grounded or restricted from flying into fogged in airports, motorists venture out onto roads with restricted visibility due to fog, snow, smoke, or dust particles in the air. Fog lights present on most vehicles, when properly installed both front and rear, safely illuminate the road ahead in these conditions and make the vehicle more visible to other cars.
Regular headlights can reflect off fog, snow, smoke, or dust particles in the air, causing glare that reduces visibility. However, white or yellow fog lights when positioned low on the car near the front bumper produce a unique flat and wide beam shape that cuts through fog and falling snow and dust particles. Rear fog lights, always red, are also installed on the back of a vehicle to make it visible from behind to other drivers. Both front and rear fog lights are installed on a separate circuit from the rest of the car’s lighting.
How to Tell If Your Fog Lights Are Properly Positioned
Fog is a vapor that sits about 18 inches above the ground. A properly-designed fog light will have an extremely sharp cut-off at the top to prevent light from reflecting off water droplets in the air, and will not appear more than 10 to 14 inches off the surface of the road. To ensure that the fog lights on your vehicle are properly installed, park your car on a level surface, 25 feet from a flat wall. Measure from the center of the light to the ground. Go to the wall and measure the same distance and draw a line. With the fog lights turned on, the beams should shine approximately 4 inches below the line you drew on the wall.
When and When Not to Use Fog Lights
Fog lights are designed to be used at low speeds in fog, heavy mist, snow and other situations where visibility is significantly reduced. As with high beams, in Oregon after sunset and during other low visibility situations, fog lights should be turned off when within 500 feet of an oncoming vehicle and within 350 feet when following another vehicle. Fog lights should not be left on all the time.
Installing After-Market Fog Lights
If you plan to install fog lights as an after-market feature, be aware that Oregon
Drivers venturing across the 205 bridge during the January 2017 freeze were surprised to find Clark County roads clear and passable while Portland struggled with slippery layers of packed ice and snow. The Washington Department of Transportation (WDOT) brought down eight plows and road salt to assist with snow and ice removal, but results seemed not any better than other methods Oregon has used. Many said that not enough was applied and it was used at the wrong time to be effective.
How Does Road Salt Work?
Road salt lowers the freezing point of water, making snow less likely to freeze. It must be applied to pavement in a liquid salt brine before a storm to be effective. This will loosen the snow or ice that later accumulates, so that it can be removed with a shovel or plow. Road salt also prevents ice from forming and reduces the amount needed to de-ice the surface later. As snow continues to fall, salting and plowing is repeated. Salt applied too late will not completely melt snow or ice. WDOT crews sent down to assist with snow and ice removal commented that salt was applied in too small an amount and not soon enough to be effective.
Why Has Oregon Resisted Salt As a Road De-Icer?
Environmentalists have felt that damage to plants and wildlife from rare applications of road salt in our usually temperate climate justify abstaining from salt use. Instead they advocate use of Magnesium Chloride for snow and ice removal, which has been shown to damage road surfaces. The Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) said it will continue to experiment with road salt use on selected roads during future snow and ice storms.
Many Roads Still Unplowed Days After January 2017 Snowfall
Although the snowfall lasted for less than 24 hours, subfreezing temperatures persisted. Days later, travelers in an around Portland and its suburbs found many roads still barely passable, while some roads were clear. Portland’s existing fleet of 45 plows was not enough during this sudden and persistent storm, and the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT), dealing with heavy snow in central Oregon, was not able to offer help. The fact that it was necessary for Washington State to send down plows and salt to assist with snow removal indicates that Oregon needs to be better prepared for winter weather.
Learn more about issues impacting safety,
Traditionally, if you were visiting Oregon from a northern state having never driven in a Portland winter, you would have been shocked to discover that the city took a firm stand against using rock salt on roads, especially while making the transition from neighboring California, Idaho, or Nevada. While salt is widely used throughout the U.S. to free busy roadways from the hazards of snow and ice, Oregon avoided its use at all costs…until a grumpy Old Man Winter struck in December 2016.
Rock salt, or sodium chloride, is just a coarse version of your average table salt, but it can do copious amounts of damage when it is applied to clear ice and snow from roads. In a surprising change of policy, Oregon has approved its use for an unusually heavy winter.
Advantages of Salting Icy Roads
The main purpose of using rock salt on roads is to reduce the number of winter car accidents. Slippery roads, gray skies, and falling snow coupled with drivers who haven’t driven in slippery roads, gray skies, and falling snow since at least a year ago are the perfect formula for a spike in car accidents. For public safety reasons, the vast majority of states that get hit with snowfall utilize rock salt on roads because it is advantageous in melting thick layers of ice and snow quickly.
According to the American Highway Users Alliance, rock salt has been proven to reduce traffic incidents by 85%. A simple 10% improvement in the friction of the asphalt can generate a 20% reduction in accidents. In addition, rock salt is cheap to buy at about $50 per ton. Most states consider it a cost-effective solution to reduce traffic collisions and fatalities.
Disadvantages of Road Salt
While most states will do whatever it takes to reduce collisions in the short term, Oregon considers the long-term effects of applying rock salt to roads including vast environmental harm and infrastructure damage. Ultimately, the state has long decided that the harm done by rock salt is worse than the amount of good it can do, up until this year where the pros outweigh the cons.
Anything created by man that causes environmental deterioration eventually comes back to bite him. When sodium chloride is applied to roadways it can stunt the growth of or kill various types of plants. It taints the soil and eventually makes
Winter without snow just doesn’t seem right to those who aren’t familiar with the very real disruptions a white winter causes. Tourists who have never seen snow before don’t know about icy roads, freezing rain, and staying indoors for days on end. Just one good snow storm can be enough to keep an entire town locked up until conditions improve. Driving turns ordinary people into extreme athletes against their will, since there is nothing exhilarating about maneuvering a 2-ton vehicle on slippery roads. If you cannot escape your commute this winter, you should be familiar with winter best driving practices. You should also know about the top 10 worst winter driving habits and learn to avoid them.
Underestimating reaction time. If there is trouble up ahead, you should be immediately reducing your speed and preparing to lay on the brakes. On slippery winter roads, the stopping distance required to avoid a collision triples.
Exercising caution at intersections. Too often, cross traffic must skid through an intersection without enough time to stop at the appropriate location. When winter hits, intersections require a double or even triple check that the road is clear.
Failing to keep functional brakes. Too many drivers fail to have their brakes inspected before the snow starts falling. Keeping fully functional brakes is crucial to preventing a serious accident. In addition, increasing your following distance three-fold will reduce the necessity to slam on your brakes or make sudden movements that can be disastrous on slippery roads.
Neglecting to maintain tires. Whether you neglect to keep your tires inflated at the right levels or you neglect to get new ones when the old ones are worn down, your tires are what literally keep your vehicle rolling. In fact, The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration claims that worn tires account for 200 driving fatalities annually. If you plan on surviving another winter on the roads, properly caring for your tires is of the utmost importance.
Driving like you just watched The Fast and Furious sequence. In the winter months, this can mean driving at or even slightly below the posted speed limits. When visibility is low, there is a lot of snow on the road and the possibility of black ice lurking underneath it, driving at your average speeds is still too fast for the conditions present. Speed is the top culprit in loss of
The finale of 2016 brought Portland some heavy bouts of snow that led to several traffic accidents throughout the city. While it’s advised to stay indoors as much as possible when road conditions are snowy, driving in thick snow may be unavoidable if you’re looking to partake in winter sports like skiing and snowboarding. There are signs along the roadways leading up to Oregon’s top ski resorts warning drivers that tire chains are required. By law, drivers are required to obey the signs, but what exactly are the laws regarding tire chains? Are there any times when you would not need to put them on?
Oregon Tire Chain Laws
The Oregon Department of Transportation provides drivers with a few options to drive safely in the snow. ODOT recognizes tire chains and traction tires. The state also permits certain vehicles to use all-season radial tires or snow tires in lieu of tire chains. If you drive a vehicle with 4-wheel or all-wheel drive and use approved snow tires, you are exempt from applying chains to your vehicle, so long as your vehicle weighs under 10,000 pounds.
Vehicles under 10,000 pounds are considered “light duty vehicles” and consist of passenger cars and light trucks. Minimum chain requirements state that “chains should be on one tire on each side of the primary drive axle.” Not sure what this means? If your car has front-wheel drive, the chains should go on the front tires. Rear-wheel drive vehicles should have the chains applied to the back tires. In serious conditions, chains may be required on all four tires. If you only have two chains, you should at least know where to put the only chains you have.
Chains must also be placed on a vehicle or trailer being towed. The law defines chains as link chains, cable chains, or some other device that attaches to the outside of the tire specifically for the purpose of increasing the tire traction in icy/ snowy roads.
When towing, cars and light trucks are required to apply chains on both tires of the drive axle. If nothing is being towed, traction tires can be used instead of chains. How does Oregon define a “traction tire”? Under OAR 734-017-0005, traction tires include:
- Tires with studs, including retractable studs
- Tires marked as “mud and snow” or all-season radial tires
- Tires identified by the Rubber Manufacturers Association
The number of commercial trucks on Portland roads has ballooned since the closing of the Port’s main terminals. Although trucks are vastly outnumbered by cars, the sheer size and weight of just one 18-wheeler or semi truck on Portland roads likens them to a trail of woolly mammoths on wheels. In fact, to be more precise, you can imagine that a fully-loaded semi truck with trailer takes up about as much room on the road as three woolly mammoths in a line, and weigh as much as six woolly mammoths. Just one woolly
mammoth weighs an average of 13,000 pounds while a fully-loaded semi truck trailer is legally allowed to weigh up to 80,000 without a special permit. Due to these dimensions, it is not difficult to conclude that a collision with a commercial truck frequently leads to tragic outcomes.
Even though the “trail of mammoths” that is just one semi truck is actually a highly-refined automotive machine operated by a [supposedly] competent and commercially-licensed driver, the number of accidents involving these vehicles escalates past one thousand annually in the Beaver State. In 2014, the most up-to-date traffic report in Oregon shows that Oregon experienced 2,144 semi truck collisions, 434 of which took place in Portland. Over 1, 100 people were injured, and 34 were killed.
Truck Accident Injuries are Severe
Although just 1% of all truck accidents result in a fatality, 23% are injury accidents. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 73% of all truck accident injuries and deaths are suffered by the people in the passenger vehicle and not the truck driver nor any truck passengers. Truck drivers rarely suffer from accidents; minor scrapes, cuts and bruises are the most common injuries drivers sustain, although they are often to blame for the serious injuries and lives claimed after a truck accident. A Portland truck accident attorney can study your case to guide you in your pursuit of justice following an injury accident.
Overall, truck accidents account for 3% of all U.S. injury accidents. Injuries from truck accidents are often severe and can lead to several months or years of recovery. Paralysis, brain injuries, and fractures are common. Many truck accident victims may never fully recover, leading to a lifetime of suffering and a decreased quality of life from an incident that took only seconds. In a truck accident, the most