SALEM — Joining a national campaign to reduce crashes, injuries and fatalities during the holiday season, the Oregon Department of Transportation, with continued support from Gov. John Kitzhaber, Oregon State Police and a variety of partners, is stepping up efforts to remind motorists not to get behind the wheel if they are impaired.
The governor has proclaimed December as “Drunk and Drugged Driving Awareness Month,” and safety advocates are urging travelers to make smart decisions whether on foot, in a car or on a bike or motorcycle: plan ahead for safety, and watch out for one another.
In Oregon, law enforcement agencies will be working overtime around the state to prevent impaired driving-related incidents. Across the country, ads will proclaim, “Drive sober or get pulled over.” And sobriety refers not just to alcohol but illegal — and legal — drugs as well.
“Sometimes we forget that over-the-counter or prescription drugs can impair our ability to drive, too,” said Troy E. Costales, ODOT Safety Division administrator. “We want Oregonians to be alert and focused on safe driving, so nothing else should get in the way. When you are paying attention, you can look out for each other, and that’s true for drivers, pedestrians and bicyclists.”
In 2011, for the month of December, Oregon had 25 motor vehicle fatalities; seven of those crashes were alcohol-involved. 2010 saw fewer fatalities, but a higher percentage involved with alcohol: Of the 19 who died that December, seven of the crashes were alcohol-involved. In 2009, of the 39 people who died in December, 10 of the crashes were alcohol-involved. Over the 78-hour Christmas holiday in Oregon last year, two people died in crashes; both were alcohol-involved.
In recent years, Oregon has seen a reduction in motor vehicle fatalities, in large part due to a commitment by many Oregonians to use proper safety restraints and avoid driving while impaired.
“The progress we have seen to date is in part the result of thousands of caring Oregonians,” Kitzhaber noted in his proclamation. “By working together toward a common goal of reducing drunk and drugged driving, we will enjoy a safer roadway system.”
ODOT, Oregon State Police, Oregon Sheriff’s Association and Oregon Association Chiefs of Police offer the following advice to help ensure safe holidays:
n Don’t drink and drive, don’t ride with anyone who has been drinking.
n Never use illegal drugs.
n Be aware of the affect your prescriptions and other medications may have on your alertness, and take necessary steps to avoid driving.
n Volunteer to be a designated driver.
n If someone who’s been drinking insists on driving, take his/her keys.
n If hosting a gathering, provide non-alcoholic beverages.
n Use public transit or local drive-home services provided by taxis and other companies.
n If walking or riding a bike, enhance your visibility by wearing bright or reflective clothing or shoes.
n Always use a seat belt.
n Avoid travel after midnight, especially on weekends and holidays.
n Drive defensively at all times; be on the lookout for bicyclists and pedestrians.
n Report drunk drivers by calling 1-800-DRUNK or dialing 9-1-1.
“We want everyone to be safe on our roadways while they are out during this busy holiday season,” said Captain Ted Phillips, director of the Oregon State Police Patrol Services Division. “That is why OSP troopers, deputies and city police officers will be stepping up enforcement throughout the month to catch and arrest impaired drivers. If you are found to be impaired, there will be no warnings and no excuses.”
As of Nov. 26, Oregon has had 55 pedestrian fatalities (unofficial); in all of 2011, 47 pedestrians died in motor vehicle-related traffic crashes. Safety advocates are putting a special emphasis on pedestrian safety, with “See and Be Seen” campaigns. A new pedestrian safety brochure called “Do the Safety Step” is available from ODOT’s http://1.usa.gov/11azHYu.
In addition to increased traffic during the holidays, weather plays a major part in crash frequency; December 2011 had the second highest number of crashes for the year (November was first).