Month: July 2008

Thanks to our Firefighters!

On this weekend of family, friends and reflecting on the birth of our great country, I had to remember that there are a group of people defending our way of life on this holiday weekend. Of course we remember our troups in harms way around the world, but we also have to remember the brave group of men and women protecting our homes, businesses and way of life from the ever present danger of wildfire in the west.
I was at a popular truck stop in Northern California near Red Bluff and I met up with a group of firefighters from Orange County, California. The firefighter I talked to said he has been fighting fires west of Red Bluff for the last 14 days straight. This was their first break and were looking forward to a well deserved day of rest and relaxation. He told me that they spent the first 16 hours of their fire assignment performing hand crew duties such as building fire line, cutting trees and cutting brush. These duties are not totally unfamiliar with this fire crew, but it was quite a change from the normal duties encountered in their day to day activities in their home town of Laguna Nigel.

No sooner did we finish our conversation and the BC who was with the group notified them that they were to report back to their fire engines and were being dispatched to the complex of fires near Big Sur and Santa Barbara. Apparently fire resources were low and the winds were very high today. The strike team was due to be in Santa Barbara before sunrise encountering another round of firefighting and protecting life.

I ask that fellow truck drivers, who happen to be in California this week, turn on their headlights while driving down the freeway in support of these hometown heroes who risk their lives every day to make the rest of us safe. If you happen to see one of these strike teams on the highway, give them plenty of room and let them have the road.

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Make the Fourth a Blast, Not a Bust

Dangerous driving – especially involving impaired drivers – will be in the sights of Oregon police officers during the 78-hour Fourth of July holiday period starting 6:00 p.m., Thursday, July 3rd, through 11:59 p.m., Sunday, July 6th. High speed driving continues to also be a concern as reflected in last year’s Oregon State Police (OSP) enforcement toward drivers traveling 100 mph and faster that showed the highest number of incidents happen in the summer months.
FREEDOM! Don't Loose Yours This July 4th
According to statistics provided by ODOT’s Fatality Analysis Reporting Unit (FARS), the Fourth of July holiday period is the deadliest holiday period of the year. Since 1970, FARS statistics show 286 fatalities have occurred during Oregon’s Independence Day holiday. Half of Oregon’s fatalities were in alcohol-involved crashes. Nationally, July 4th is the second deadliest day of the year on America’s roadways, mostly due to impaired driving.

“I hope every Oregonian has a safe and happy Fourth of July, and I want to remind people that driving impaired or riding with someone who is impaired is not worth the risk, and the consequences are serious and real,” said Oregon Governor Ted Kulongoski. “Not only do you risk hurting yourself or someone else, but the trauma and financial costs of a crash or an arrest for driving while impaired can be really significant and not the way you want to celebrate the July 4th holiday.”

Last year, 3 people died in three separate fatal crashes during a shorter than normal official period as the holiday was in the middle of the week. FARS statistics show 78-hour periods have been the deadliest for the Fourth of July holiday as reflected in following past reports:

19 fatalities – 1980
17 fatalities – 1977
12 fatalities – 1998
11 fatalities – 1971 and 1986

OSP Captain Gerry Gregg, director of the OSP Patrol Services Division, emphasized the department’s participation in OPERATION C.A.R.E. (Combined Accident Reduction Effort) through increased enforcement on those hazardous violations that are factors in traffic crashes on our nation’s highways including intoxicated, reckless, and fatigued driving. Extra OSP troopers, county deputies and city police officers will be working to increase enforcement and assistance using ODOT-provided overtime grant funds aimed at highway safety dangers.

“Everyone should remember that we want to get through these potentially dangerous holiday periods without people being killed on our highways,” said Captain Gregg. “As part of Operation C.A.R.E. one of our strategies will be to work cooperatively with Washington State Patrol and California Highway Patrol on enhanced patrol efforts all along the Interstate 5 corridor in hopes of ensuring safe travels for all throughout the holiday weekend.”

Oregon is also experiencing the highest volume of highway construction in more than 50 years. Work will pause for the holiday, but work zones will still be marked and will still require slower speeds.

“Even if you’re not in a work zone, driving requires that you pay attention to the task at hand,” said Matt Garrett, director of the Oregon Department of Transportation. “We want everyone to have a safe, enjoyable holiday weekend.”

A recently completed OSP review of high speed enforcement during 2007 showed nearly half of the drivers cited for driving 100 mph or faster happened during May – August. Speeding drivers are a real concern and impact highway safety as excessive speed is a factor in half of all traffic fatalities, and the only factor in about 30 percent of these crashes in Oregon. Crash severity increases sharply with speeds in excess of 60 mph, and the probability of fatal injury increases sharply above 70 mph.

The OSP enforcement review showed troopers cited 494 drivers for driving 100 mph or faster in 2007, a slight drop of nearly 8 percent of drivers cited in 2006. OSP enforcement statistics reflected increased citations in 70 – 79 mph and 80 – 89 mph speed ranges but slight decreases in the 90 – 99 mph and 100 mph plus categories. Three drivers recorded the highest OSP-cited speed of 139 mph, but in one case Morrow County Sheriff’s Office checked one driver at 153 mph on Interstate 84 that led to an attempt to elude from police before officers were able to spike a tire and bring the incident to a safe ending near Hermiston.

The enforcement review also showed:

  • OSP dispatch center reported driving complaints rose from 22,700 in 2000 to over 49,000 in 2007, an average of 135 per day and 5.6 per hour. In 2006, there were nearly 42,000 reported driving complaints.
  • Since 2000, over 4,100 drivers have been cited for going 100 mph or faster.
  • During calendar year 2007, DMV posted 428 court ordered suspensions for speeding while driving over 100 mph. This is an increase from the previous year when 405 suspensions were ordered by the court.
  • Enforcement statistics reflected drops on Interstate and secondary state highways.
  • Interstate 5 had two sections with notable increases occurring from Oregon/California border to Grants Pass and Cottage Grove to Eugene.
  • Interstate 84 had a notable increase in the section between Hood River and Biggs Junction, and a significant drop in the section between Baker City and Oregon/Idaho border.
  • Highway 97 noted more than a 50 percent increase with nearly 60 % of these drivers cited in the section between Highway 58 and the Oregon/California border.
The Oregon State Police and Oregon Department of Transportation offer the following safety reminders for holiday travel:
  • Be watchful for emergency vehicles displaying required warning lights and using emergency equipment. Yield when required and maintain a safe distance when they are working on our highways.
  • Get plenty of rest before starting out. Fatigued drivers are more frequent during holiday weekends because of increased travel and activity. Allow plenty of time to reach your destination.
  • Expect the unexpected. Be informed and prepared when traveling on any of our highways.
  • When traveling anywhere, plan ahead and take known routes if possible. For road conditions in Oregon, call 5-1-1 or (800) 977-ODOT (6368). Outside Oregon, dial (503) 588-2941. Visiting TripCheck.com on the Internet provides information on road and weather conditions, incidents and traffic delays, and links to numerous cameras along major routes.
  • With nicer weather and rising gas prices, more motorcycles and bicycles are being used on our highways. Be on the lookout and keep from being distracted from your driving task.
  • If considering a remote route that you have never traveled on, don’t hesitate to contact available road and weather condition phone number or Internet resources, or contact police or highway department officials.
  • Be aware that many road construction projects are underway around the state. The scope of work zones is projected to continue to increase through implementation of the Oregon Transportation Improvement Act, the biggest overhaul and modernization of Oregon highways and bridges in decades.
  • Even when workers are not present, all work zone speed limits still apply and fines double. Inactive work zones still have equipment, detours, and incomplete changes in the roadway so drivers need to slow down and be alert.
  • Always use safety restraints and child safety seats correctly.
  • Don’t drink and drive.
All motorists play an important part in keeping our highways and city streets safe. Immediately report aggressive, dangerous and intoxicated drivers to the Oregon State Police at 1-800-24DRUNK (1-800-243-7865) or call 9-1-1.

“No matter what you drive – a passenger car, pickup, or motorcycle – if you are caught driving impaired, you will be arrested,” said Captain Gregg. “Don’t let this Fourth of July blow up in your face.”