Fatal crashes on the rise in Oregon, echo nationwide trend: Hwy. 97 second-deadliest in state
'We use engineering to combat these fatalities, and we use education and enforcement'
BEND, Ore. ( KTVZ) -- Recent state and federal reports rank U.S. Highway 97 as the second-deadliest in Oregon. Only Highway 101 on the coast has more fatalities, according to 2020 data from the Fatality Analysis Reporting System.
"There's a lot of the contributing factors to fatalities are, distracted driving and driving too fast for conditions," Kacey Davey, the Oregon Department of Transportation's Region 4 public information officer, said Friday.
"A lot of serious-type injuries are when people leave the highway or when they have head-on crashes," Davey added.
Richard Atkinson drives U.S. 97 from La Pine to Crescent often and agrees it's dangerous.
"(Highway) 97 is a dangerous road, especially between La Pine and Crescent," Atkinson said. "The drivers are not very good there, and they're going way too fast and are driving recklessly."
Davey noted that fatal traffic crashes are on the rise, and not just in Oregon.
"Sadly, in Oregon, we're seeing the same trend nationwide, and that is an increase in fatalities in vehicle crashes on highways," she said.
ODOT is working on making Highway 97 roads safer in a variety of projects under way and in the works.
"We use engineering to combat these fatalities, and we use education and enforcement," Davey said. "Those are really the three tools that we have to help us improve safety on highways."
"it's really important to take into account vehicle miles traveled," she added. "Rural highways, at high elevations with challenging geography and in severe weather, are going to have different kinds of crashes than you're going to see on on interstates and the like through the Valley."
Preliminary numbers from ODOT in January showed 575 fatalities on Oregon roads in the past year.