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 streets. Just last year, 5 of the 44 people killed on Portland streets died in accidents that took place between 82nd Avenue and 174th at Gresham.
PBOT has also taken an effort to speed up the process of installing new speed cameras on the intersections of SE Division and 151st Street, and SE Division and 122nd. In addition, new speed safety cameras will be installed at SE Steele and SE Reedway. These have been shown to encourage drivers to approach with increased caution.
For over 10 years, SE Division has had more crashes resulting in fatalities or serious injuries than other corridors, with a total of 13 deaths and 117 serious injuries in that time. As of March 6th, speed safety cameras have been activated. Speed limit signs go into effect immediately in areas where they have been reduced. Until all signs change to 30 MPH cameras will issue warnings for the first 30 days of their activation.
Do Higher Speeds Cause More Accidents?
There is a common misconception that higher speeds lead to more accidents; in reality, while that has not been proven, what has been demonstrated is that higher speeds lead to more serious accidents. When two cars collide, the higher the speed means the more serious the injuries, and the greater chance that death will be the consequence. This is because objects that crash into each other at higher velocity carry a greater amount of force. A severe impact from a high-speed crash is much more likely to kill.
At higher speeds, cars are less likely to notice pedestrians, cyclists, or motorcyclists using the roadways. To make roads safer for all, it is sensible for the City of Portland to target speed limits and bring them down.
If you have been seriously hurt in a high speed collision, you may understandably be in a distressed state. At RizkLaw, attorney Richard Rizk is passionate about helping you attain the compensation you deserve by law for your personal injury case. Call (503) 245-5677 or contact us for a free case review.