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.
Despite well-intentioned plans to reduce the number of fatalities on Portland streets, 2016 saw an uptick in traffic fatalities compared with 2015. Although 2015 was the deadliest year to be on Oregon roads since 2008, in Portland, 2016 outpaced the preceding year with 44 traffic fatalities compared with 37 in 2015. The majority of these fatalities are taking place in the Southeast Division, where several streets are designated as “high crash corridors.”
In 2015, 8 of the crashes that led to 13 fatalities that occurred as early as April occurred in East Portland neighborhoods. Just last year, 5 were killed in crashes on the outer Southeast Division. As a response to the high rate of serious injury accidents and death, the Portland City Council has passed an emergency measure to reduce the speed limit in this area.
What is going on? Isn’t Vision Zero supposedly correcting all our traffic issues?
An initiative like Vision Zero, adopted in 2015, is a massive scheme to eliminate traffic incidents by adjusting the design and infrastructure of our roads to accommodate everyone who uses them. This is achieved through education, increased awareness of issues, and redesigning the entire transportation system so that it will work equally well for motorists to pedestrians, and everyone in between. Vision Zero is a plan to improve Portland streets by 2025, and it can be difficult to notice immediate improvements.
Since it was adopted in 2015, there are more protected bike lanes throughout the city helping bike commuters enjoy a more secure commute throughout the city. In addition, speed has been singled out as an important focus area (along with impairment, disobeying traffic laws, and road design), as it is a huge contributing factor for over 30% of traffic fatalities. Safe speeds that take all users of transport into account are a big part of the Vision Zero initiative. To encourage safe driving, speed limits are being reconsidered, and speed cameras are being introduced to High Crash Network streets.
Targeting Speed in SE Portland
In Southeast Portland, the City Council rushed to reduce the speed limit from 82nd Avenue to the Gresham border at 174th to 30 MPH as a response to the high rate of people killed on these
If you’re shopping around for a used car, you are probably searching for one that has a clean title. Yet if you search online your eyes may be drawn to seemingly perfect vehicles — with incredibly attractive prices and low mileage — only later to find out that their title states “Salvage.” You might get annoyed to find several options you’ve considered are marked with the vehicular equivalent of the scarlet letter and you may wonder if a salvage title is really all that bad. Well, is it?
What is a Salvage Car?
The general consensus of salvage cars is that they have been involved in serious accidents and are therefore, unreliable. This is not a bad assumption, but it doesn’t paint the full picture. Salvage cars are vehicles whose titles show they have been deemed a total loss by the insurer. Usually, these cars have been severely damaged.
In Oregon, a salvage title can be given to any car that would cost an insurance company to pay at least 80% of the car’s market value at the time it was damaged (or stolen) to repair or replace it. That’s right, on rare occasions salvage cars don’t have a mark on them, they were just found through unfortunate circumstances. In addition, abandoned vehicles worth less than $500 are also also given salvage titles.
Is it Worth the Risk?
Salvage cars typically sell at 5% to 10% below market value, yet they are usually accompanied by a hoard of obstacles involving insurance and financing, and quality and safety.
After a car is considered totaled it faces two possibilities: a salvage certificate that prevents it from being registered, driven, or sold as-is, or it is rebuilt and remarketed as a salvage car. The first group of vehicles end up at auctions for car rebuilders or junk yards. The salvage cars that make it on the market are those that have been rebuilt and have passed inspections, which vary from state to state. These cars are issued a title that indicates they are salvage vehicles.
The functionality and safety of these cars is so unpredictable that it is generally recommended to avoid salvage titles whenever possible. The “savings” generally do not outweigh the drawbacks of owning such a car. If you are tempted
Some fear them, some are ready to welcome them with open arms. A question that many wonder is “When will self-driving cars hit the road?”
While we are not any closer to the human-controlled flying cars imagined on The Jetsons, we are making huge leaps in automated technology. Self-driving cars are being tested on closed tracks and public roads in several states. Big names like Ford, General Motors, Honda, Nissan and Toyota are testing the technology in a concept town in Ann Arbor, Michigan on the University of Michigan campus. One day, these cars will be fit to operate in a bustling city like Portland.
Welcome to Mcity, Michigan
Mcity is a pop-up town with real streets, street lights, street signs, sidewalks, crosswalks, and even graffiti that somewhat resembles a movie set. The town is meant to represent the typical American city, but presents more obstacles to drivers than the average town. Things like faded stop signs, hills, tunnels, and near-invisible lane markings challenge the cars’ abilities to react to scenarios found in the real world.
Seeking to weed out weaknesses in fully automated vehicles, Mcity is purposely difficult to navigate. It is a course full of obstacles where manufacturers can create complicated scenarios that are controllable and repeatable to thoroughly test the equipment. On its closed track, carmakers evaluate how self-driving cars react to pedestrians appearing between parked cars or the car’s ability to stay in its own lane when markings are barely visible, or even the car’s ability to properly decipher signals covered in graffiti. Its position in Michigan also makes it the perfect spot to test for various weather events, such as heavy snow or strong wind storms.
Every mile traveled on an Mcity street helps the cars map their environments to boost their navigation ability. Each interaction with a human driver, pedestrian, or cyclist improves their ability to predict common behavior. While Mcity provides a great way to test automated functions, manufacturers are anxious to get the technology on busy public roads to work out the final kinks.
When will Portland be the next “Mcity?”
States like California, Michigan, and Nevada already allow self-driving cars to be tested on public roads. This very track is on a bustling college
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.
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 the
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