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Fatal and critical injury crashes hoped to be cut in half in coming years

After several complaints from residents in the area and after examining speed and road conditions, the Oregon Department of Transportation decided to reduce the speed limit on parts of River Road to 35 miles per hour. Photo courtesy City of Eugene

EUGENE, Ore. - Eugene area law enforcement and local transportation planners are joining the forces this summer to prompt more drivers to slow down, and in the process, save lives.

Planners say that too many fatal and critical injury crashes have one thing in common: speed.

On February 7th of this year, a speeding man on a motorcycle caused havoc through Eugene on I-5. State Police say that this guy was hitting speeds of 100 mph or more.

Though it was an extreme case, local transportation planners say that it underscores a serious traffic danger.

Larisa Varela, an transportation associate planner in Eugene is on the Vision Zero Safety team, and they are ramping up their efforts to get chronic speeders to stop.

They've teamed up with local police and ODOT to try and persuade those drivers to slow down.

"If we can decrease speeding, essentially we can lower the severity of the crashes on our streets," said Varela.

Speed can kill, even when it's slow. In Eugene, on the streets, one out of every three fatal or serious injury crashes in the city happen on streets that are posted at 30 mph or less.

A recent Triple A survey of drivers in Oregon found nearly half admit that they go 10 mph or more above the speed limits on residential streets. Half the survey admitted the they drive at least 15 mph over the limit on freeways as well.

Lt. Vonn Schleicher, at the Oregon State Police says that they're boosting patrols this year aimed at speeding drivers.

"Sometimes it takes a law enforcement presence to remind that person of the risk that they are taking," said Lt. Schleicher.

These are steps that Vision Zero leaders hope will result in less fatal and critical injury crashes in Eugene.

Verla said that anther step the city will take next year is pushing state lawmakers to pass a bill giving local cities the power to set and adjust local speed limits, to meet local safety conditions.


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