Just how bad are Portland drivers again? If you’ve been following along you probably know that PDX was ranked poorly in a recent traffic report released by Allstate last year. Despite efforts to improve transportation, we keep outdoing ourselves. Just two years ago, the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) felt the need to remind local drivers just how to drive in the rain after a series of crashes. This sounds like a spot of déjà vu considering four fatal car crashes took place just last month over a twelve-hour period of rain.
The first crash occurred when a driver of a Volkswagen Jetta attempted to pass a slower moving vehicle on Highway 22 west of Santiam Junction. Alexander Shumilov, 31 of Salem, lost control of his car on the wet road at 4 PM. Shumilov slid off the south side of the highway and hit a tree. The car continued to roll down the embankment, and sadly, the driver was pronounced dead at the scene.
A subsequent fatal crash happened at 6:40 PM near the coast. A Honda Civic containing two passengers and driver Maricella Trujillo, 42 of Woodburn, was headed east on Highway 18 on another wet road. As the car followed along a curve the car slid into the oncoming lane and a head-on collision with a Kia Soul ensued. The two passengers of the Civic died at the scene and Trujillo was left with life threatening injuries. The driver of the Kia Soul was not hurt, although his two passengers sustained mild injuries.
Two more fatal accidents occurred after dark in which the wet roads played a major role in escalating the level of danger. It seems like we need another reminder from ODOT now that a rainy fall is underway to avoid further fatalities.
ODOT Reminds PDX How to Drive in Rain
The headline above may elicit an eye roll, but it really did happen. On a Wednesday afternoon in 2014 several crashes backed up U.S. 26, I-5 and I-205, including a rollover crash on NE Killingsworth Street. These wrecks sparked a domino effect of congestion spread over other routes after which ODOT sent the following alert reminding motorists of proper precautions when driving in the rain.
“Reduced traction between tires and the road, along with reduced visibility, can make driving less predictable.”
That’s right, drivers who see an average of 154 days, or 42 inches of rainfall per year, need to be reminded by the state’s transportation department how to drive in the rain. A series of safety reminders were sent to drivers throughout the wet week, along with a tweet from the Portland Police Department, which felt the need to highlight that speed is the #1 cause of car accidents when driving on wet roads.
As we enter yet another rainy season, it is important to remember that the first heavy rainfall after a dry period is the most dangerous time to hit the road. The three-month dry spell is plenty of time for roads to accumulate motor oil, lubricants, and other greasy substances dispensed by cars. What happens upon the first heavy rainfall is that the rain lifts all of these fluids off of the road, creating a slippery film. Since it is the first rain, the roads are extra slippery as none of it has been washed off. This condition affects every motorist, from drivers to cyclists.
Now, let’s take a moment to refresh ourselves on good driving practices for a rainy day as well as how to prepare our cars for a heavy rain.
How to Drive Safely on Portland Roads 9 Months of the Year
As Oregonians, we are probably a little embarrassed that this is still an issue, but despite the fact that we drive on wet roads during the majority of the year, too many drivers are forgetting or ignoring best practices. Considering how many auto accidents occur regardless of weather conditions, it’s also apparent that the rain only magnifies the risk of an accident being caused by inattentive drivers.
- When driving in the rain, slow way down and increase the distance between you and the car in front of you. The average car requires 2 to 3 times more stopping distance when roads are wet.
- Watch out for other vehicles, including cyclists. Both cyclists and motorists should be aware that each method of transportation loses some ability in the rain.
- Watch out for mudslides when driving by hills.
- Avoid losing control of your vehicle by slowing down and avoiding driving through deep puddles.
- Leave the house extra early as you can expect traffic to stall when roads are bad.
- ALWAYS TURN ON YOUR HEADLIGHTS especially if you drive a gray, white, black or silver vehicle! It is the law! Don’t you want see and be seen?
- Avoid cruise control. You should be in charge of controlling speed when roads are wet.
- Check your wiper blades before rainy season begins. It may be time to replace them.
Oftentimes, despite taking all the precautions in the world a car accident still occurs. Whether another driver was not taking care, or things outside of anyone’s control were to blame, attorney Richard Rizk specializes in Portland car accident cases. Call RizkLaw at (503) 245-5677 for a free case evaluation today.