Oregon Safety Corridors
You have seen the signs: "safety corridor next 15 miles". A safety what? This article will address what a safety corridor is and what this designation seeks to accomplish.
A safety corridor is a stretch of state highway where the number of serious injury and fatal accidents significantly exceed average. More specifically, safety corridors exceed 110% of the state average for similar roadways with respect to serious injury crashes. Stakeholders including police, citizens, legislators, emergency responders and Oregon Department of Transportation representatives work together to identify these areas and take steps to reduce fatalities and serious injuries to motorists at risk.
Safety corridor signs are designed to alert motorists of increased probability of serious injury or fatality on these stretches of roadway. Oregon State Police sometimes receives additional funding for law-enforcement overtime hours in safety corridors. Almost all safety corridors impose subject speeding drivers to double fines. One Oregon new safety corridor, a five mile of highway 30 in Warren, will not carry double fines for speeders.
ORS 811.483 also imposes increased minimum penalties for non-speeding related offenses occurring in a safety corridor. Driving offenses subject to such increased minimum fines include: DUII; failure to perform the duties of a driver when property or injury occurs; driving with a suspended or revoked license; and evading police. In addition to increase enforcement, safety corridors roadway are eligible for safety improvements such as rumble strips, raised pavement markers, cable highway dividers and minor engineering improvements.
Oregon's first safety corridor was created in 1989 at Highway 62 between Medford and Eagle Point. Several other safety corridors followed. Eventually six safety corridors were decommissioned (including Highway 62) due to reduced serious incident.
As of 2011, 12 stretches of roadway have been designated as safety corridors in Oregon. All are in, or west of, the Cascade mountain range. They are:
Oregon Route 34 (Corvallis to Tangent)
The Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) stresses "four E's" in promoting highway safety through specially designated corridors:
Education: Raising safety awareness through signs, billboards, brochures, public awareness campaigns, events, and media with community in educating drivers.
Enforcement: The Safety Corridor Program helps fund law increased law enforcement patrols and inform violators of serious safety concerns.
Engineering: The Safety Corridor Program requires a roadway engineering review annually. The review determines immediate engineering solutions to improve safety.
Emergency Medical Services: Coordinating and help fund emergency responder services.
Mount Hood Driving Safety Facts
Mt. Hood National Forest comprises over one million acres of forest and meadows. The centerpiece of the forest is, of course, Mount Hood. Since Mount Hood and the recreational opportunities it offers is only about one and a half hour drive from Portland, areas surrounding Mount Hood are very popular week end retreats for active, outdoor minded Portlanders. In fact, Mount Hood itself attracts about 2 million visitors annually and up to 5 million folks visit the Mount Hood National Forest each year. Winter activities include downhill skiing, country skiing, sledding and snowshoeing. Portlanders almost always drive to the Mount Hood National Forest due to lack of public transportation to and from the forest. And limited private bus service to the forest via the Central Oregon Breeze or Mount Hood Meadows shuttle is expensive for Portland, a city known for its consistently high poverty and unemployment rates.
The crash rate on US 26 east of Gresham is twice that of other primary, rural non-freeway Oregon highways. Between January 2003 and December 2008, 22 fatalities occurred on Oregon sections of US 26. Most crashes are related to the harsh driving conditions above the snowline. Après-ski activities combined with fatigue also contribute to crashes.
Crowds flocking to Mount Hood never let up. Since Mount Hood is the only place in the USA to offer near year round skiing and snowboarding, spring and summer months attract skiers and snowboarders from across the nation. As a result, ski and snowboard camps operate in and around Government Camp during summer months. Mushroom and berry-picking are also popular summer and fall activities. December brings Christmas break vacationers and Christmas tree harvesters.
Congestion on US 26 is caused by a variety of factors, not just recreationalists. Over a thousand people live and work in small Mount Hood mountain villages and towns such as Zig Zag, Welches, Rhododendron, Government Camp, Bright wood, Wemme and Parkdale. Others commute to mountain resort s from Sandy or Hood River.
The Oregon portion of US 26 was designed for 1950s traffic, not today's. Between 1955 and 1978, a 15-mile segment of the route through southeast Portland was proposed to be moved from Powell Boulevard to create a "Mount Hood Freeway". Mount Hood Freeway never came to be due to intense political pressure..
Freight, recreational travel and commuting dramatically increased on US 26 from Portland to Mount Hood since 1950s when the Sky way tram shuttled skiers from Government Camp to Timberline for 75 cents. Now, commercial trucks cause long travel delays because large vehicles must travel under the speed limit while climbing and descending roadway steeps while impatient snow riders speed bye often in the face of oncoming traffic. In addition, inadequate parking at ski areas and in Government Camp increases congestion by forcing motorists to circle searching for available parking.
Warmer months open up other recreational activities such as boating, biking, fishing and camping. As summer winds down, the Hood to Coast relay running race occur as mountain biking season ramps up. Sandy Ridge is fairly new mountain bike trail system located about 13 miles east of Sandy, Oregon. And more new trails are proposed at Timberline Ski Area. Exciting recreational opportunities also foreshadow increased traffic on I-84 and US 26.
The popular Mount Hood Scenic Loop starts just east of Portland on Interstate 84 through the Columbia River Gorge (spectacular / distracting side tour through the Historic Columbia River Highway), then south on OR 35 to US 26 to Timberline Lodge and Government Camp, continuing on US 26 back to Portland (or the reverse). Hood River County Fruit Loop is a 35-mile a popular day trip c drive through the Hood River valley that connects over 30 farms between Hood River and Parkdale on OR 35. In the fall and late summer motorists tour farms, pick and purchase fruit. Others enjoy winetasting at Hood River valley vineyards.
To reduce injury crash consequences to and from Mount Hood:
Don't start driving until snow and ice is removed from your windshield and lights. Make sure windows are completely defogged before driving. In some conditions, hot air works best; in other conditions cool A/C air works best. Experiment with both. Consider professional anti-fogging treatment before your trip to the hill. If weather seriously impairs visabilty, consider waiting. Keep sunglasses and driving glasses in the glove box.
We all know not to drink and drive. After a long day in Mount Hood biking, skiing or hiking even the young and strong can become extrememly tired. If you are bushed, consider finding a place to stay the night on the mountain or ask a rested passenger to drive.
If you must talk while driving use hand free set (it's the law). Better yet, don't talk on the phone at all. Even conversations with a passenger can become a dangerous distraction. Keep it light. Don't eat while driving. Train kids to behave in the back seat. Keep music low enough so you can still hear other sounds. Pack away the smart phone.
Can mirrors help little when mirrors are not aligned properly. Adjust mirror before your trip. Keep proper tire pressure. Remember temperatures affect tire pressure. Les Schwab will check tire pressure for free.
Stuck behind a slow driver? Be patient. Never cross a solid yellow line. Only pass when you have a clear view. Head on collisions have killed many, many people on the highways to and from Mount Hood.
Low fuel level increases anxiety and may lead to more accidents. Always drive up to the mountain with a full tank.
Chains slow driving, tear up roads and can get caught in wheel wells. While you should always carry chains when driving in the Cascade in winter months, don't use chains on dry pavement. Other vehicles will fly by or worse, rear end you.
Chain up only in safe areas to do so and away from traffic. Remember, other vehicles also have reduced stopping capacity in winter conditions. Teach yourself how to put on chains before you are on the road.
Keep complete first aid kit, flares, a shovel, flash light, water and food inside the vehicle. Place flares or flashing LED light behind your disabled vehicle to prevent a second rear end crash. Have a charge mobile phone and camera in your vehicle.
Fun, fresh air, good food and drink and… distractions galore, abound in Mount Hood National Forest and Hood River valley. Partly for that reason, motorized travel within these areas is quite dangerous. Even beautiful Mount Hood itself can be a distraction. Since the Mount Hood Highway runs east to west, sun glare impairs driving in even in clear conditions. Also, drivers do not see signaling vehicles ahead in time to avoid rear end impact.
Neither recreational opportunity nor danger ever ends in the Mount Hood National Forest. Awareness and adherence to the rules of the road and the safety tips set out above are first steps toward reducing risk of injury automobile accidents in and around Mount Hood.