Earlier this year, insurance company Allstate crowned Portland drivers as some of the worst in the country. Out of 200 major cities featured in America’s Best Drivers, a yearly report compiled from analyzing insurance claims, Portland ranked #183 on a scale for the “Safest Driving City in 2015.” The report looked at the average years between traffic accidents, the relative likelihood that an accident would happen compared to that of the national average, the previous year’s ranking, and the change from 2014 to 2015.
But are Portlanders really that bad at driving? The report places Portland at number 183 in accident frequency, with Seattle just one placement behind at 184. According to Allstate spokesman Annie Gustafson, this means that “drivers in Portland are on average likely to experience an auto collision every 6.9 years, which is 45% more likely than the national average.”
The data is representative of one-tenth of the car insurance market, meaning that it is a good overall representation of how often drivers in the 200 cities find themselves in car accidents. In Rose City’s defense, John Brady of PBOT affirmed that Portland is seeing a reduction in traffic fatalities despite the high accident rate.
Why are Portlanders so likely to crash?
Driver distraction is often cited as the main reason for car accidents. According to the International Organisation for Road Accident Prevention, human error is the cause of 90% of road accidents each year worldwide. The CDC reports that over 8 are killed and 1,161 injured in crashes involving distracted drivers every day here in the U.S. The CDC also identifies three types of distractions:
Visual distractions involve removing one’s eyes from the road. This could mean looking at someone who is in the car with you, such as parents who turn their heads to discipline their kids while driving. Manual distractions involve removing one’s hands from the steering wheel, such as to pick up a cell phone or dig in one’s purse. Cognitive distractions are things like daydreaming while driving. Your hands and eyes can be on the road, but if you are daydreaming or feeling sleepy, your mind is elsewhere, which could very easily lead to a serious crash.
The act of texting while driving incorporates all three types of distractions. In Portland, driving while impaired, speeding, and refusing to obey yields are also cited as some of the top causes of accidents by Mr. Brady. But cell phone use is a serious concern these days, with over 660,000 drivers using cell phones or “manipulating electronic devices” while driving on any given day.
Oregon’s Cell Phone Law
Oregonians are by now all too familiar with the state’s strict cell phones laws enacted by the passage of House Bill 2377 in 2010. The law bans the use of mobile communication devices with a few exceptions.
Under this law, a “mobile communication device” is any text messaging device or wireless 2-way communication device designed to receive and send voice or text communication. Exceptions include:
- Someone who is calling for help for an emergency situation where no other person is capable of doing so
- Using such a device to perform agricultural operations
- Someone who is operating an emergency vehicle
- Adults 18 and older using hands-free devices
- Anyone who is operating a vehicle while providing public safety services
- Anyone who uses a handheld cell phone while driving for the purpose of his job
- Anyone turning the device on or off
The strict law bans any use of cell phones while driving, and even with a hands-free device, drivers under 18 are not allowed to use them. The base fine for this violation is $142.00. The highest possible fine was recently increased to $500 for a violation that police are determined to catch considering some ugly statistics about texting while driving.
While the stats are disturbing, can such laws actually reduce traffic accidents and change driving behavior? Studies have found that the use of hands-free devices is just as dangerous as talking while holding a cell phone, and in some cases even worse than driving while impaired. Banning texting altogether has been shown to increase the amount of accidents, as drivers try harder to hide their cell phones by placing them further out of sight.
A study done by Highway Loss Data Institute in September 2010 compared the outcomes of cell phone bans in 4 states: California, Louisiana, Minnesota, and Washington. According to the President of HLDI, “texting bans haven’t reduced crashes at all. In a perverse twist, crashes increased in 3 of the 4 states we studied after bans were enacted. It’s an indication that texting bans might even increase the risk of texting for drivers who continue to do so.”
No matter how many laws are passed, you just can’t regulate human behavior. We are fallible creatures and will continue to be. In the difficult time of a serious injury accident you have the right to consult with a personal injury attorney in Portland. Call RizkLaw today: 503-245-5677 for a free consultation.