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Extra traffic patrols because of increasing crashes, fatalities

Portland Police Chief Lawrence P. O'Dea III has directed all precincts to increase traffic patrols after a spike in fatal crashes.

According to the Portland Police Bureau, 12 people have been killed so far this year, compared to 7 at this time in 2015.

Traffic Division's Major Crash Team has investigated 23 fatal or serious injury crashes so far in 2016, compared to just 14 at this time last year.

There were 37 traffic fatalities in 2015, the highest number in 11 years.

Many of this year's crashes have involved vulnerable road users such as pedestrians, bicycle riders and motorcycle riders.

The increase has happened even though the City Council adopted a Vision Zero goal of no traffic fatalities or serious injuries last year.

"Our goal is to increase community safety and change behavior when it comes to road users," says O'Dea. "To truly reach the goals outlined in Vision Zero, we need more enforcement and education to end traffic fatalities."

The most recent fatality happened on Thursday when a motorcyclist collided with a U-Haul truck on Southeast Powell. The 37-year-old motorcyclist was killed at the scene. Witnesses told police he was traveling at a speed above the posted 35 mile per hour limit lat the time of the crash.

The increased patrols will specifically focused on traffic safety. In addition, O'Dea is encouraging all officers to conduct more stops of road users for traffic violations and to have a conversation about traffic safety.

As always, officers have the discretion of when or when not to issue a citation, the bureau says.

Tracking serious traffic crashes is not an exact science. The Portland Bureau of Transportation had previous said six people had been killed in traffic crashes by this time last year. And the bureau had issued press releases about 32 crashes by the end of last week, not just the 23 investigated by the Traffic Division's Major Crash Team.

Overall crashes in Portland are much higher. That information is compiled by the Oregon Department of Transportation. It says there were 11,283 crashes in Portland in 2014, the most recent year for which figures are available. Of that total, 21 were fatalities, 5,263 involved non-fatal injuries, and 5,999 involved just property damage.