State’s distracted driving campaign now includes unmarked patrol cars, task force

State’s distracted driving campaign now includes unmarked patrol cars, task force

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New unmarked Oregon State Police car unveiled at a press conference in Salem yesterday.
(Photo: ODOT)

The Oregon Department of Transportation is ramping up its attack on distracted driving.

“Our goal is to change cultural norms when it comes to distracted driving.”
— Matt Garrett, Director of ODOT

At a press conference yesterday ODOT Director Matt Garrett said the agency will tackle what he called an epidemic, “Through sustained education, enforcement, and policy initiatives.” He added that his goal is nothing less than to “change cultural norms when it comes to distracted driving.”

To do that Garrett announcd a new task force that will be made up of representatives from ODOT, Oregon State Police, AAA Oregon/Idaho, public health agencies, the courts, emergency service providers, academia and the media. (We’ve requested a list of names and more information on the task force but ODOT says it’s still preliminary and details are yet to be finalized.)

Beyond the task force and marketing efforts the most encouraging news is that the Oregon State Police are now using a fleet of 40 new unmarked patrol cars “to observe and document distracted driving.” Yesterday OSP announced they’ve already notched a 37 percent increase in enforcement. OSP Captain Dave Anderson said they’re focusing on five specific behaviors: speed, occupant safety (seat belt use), lane usage, impaired driving and distracted driving.







Behind Anderson and Garrett as they spoke to media in Salem yesterday was a wrecked OSP patrol car that was rear-ended by a distracted driver last year and a big road sign that read: “U drive, u text, u pay.”

The efforts come after a marked increase in fatal traffic crashes last year when road deaths spiked 20 percent. That rise far outpaced vehicle miles traveled which, according to ODOT economists, was only up 5.4 percent. ODOT believes that by far the largest contributing factor to this increase is human error.

ODOT has completed a survey and commissioned a study on distracted driving in Oregon. Their data shows between 2010 and 2014 distracted driving was at least partly to blame for a crash every 2.5 hours an injury every three hours. A whopping 75 percent of people admitted driving distracted in a recent AAA survey. 83 percent of respondents to that survey agreed that the problem is on the rise and feel that, “stronger laws, better use of technology, and increased awareness,” are how we should fight it.

While we’re on the topic, have you seen the brillian anti-distracted driving campaign video from New Zealand? Watch it below…

Wonder if ODOT could get this to run on TV and the web here in Oregon?

— Jonathan Maus, (503) 706-8804 – jonathan@bikeportland.org

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