Safety advocates urge motorists and pedestrians alike to be sober and alert

SALEM — Joining a national campaign to reduce crashes, injuries and fatalities during the holiday season, the Oregon Department of Transportation, with continued support from Gov. John Kitzhaber, Oregon State Police and a variety of partners, is stepping up efforts to remind motorists not to get behind the wheel if they are impaired.

The governor has proclaimed December as “Drunk and Drugged Driving Awareness Month,” and safety advocates are urging travelers to make smart decisions whether on foot, in a car or on a bike or motorcycle: plan ahead for safety, and watch out for one another.

In Oregon, law enforcement agencies will be working overtime around the state to prevent impaired driving-related incidents. Across the country, ads will proclaim, “Drive sober or get pulled over.” And sobriety refers not just to alcohol but illegal — and legal — drugs as well.

“Sometimes we forget that over-the-counter or prescription drugs can impair our ability to drive, too,” said Troy E. Costales, ODOT Safety Division administrator. “We want Oregonians to be alert and focused on safe driving, so nothing else should get in the way. When you are paying attention, you can look out for each other, and that’s true for drivers, pedestrians and bicyclists.”

In 2011, for the month of December, Oregon had 25 motor vehicle fatalities; seven of those crashes were alcohol-involved. 2010 saw fewer fatalities, but a higher percentage involved with alcohol: Of the 19 who died that December, seven of the crashes were alcohol-involved. In 2009, of the 39 people who died in December, 10 of the crashes were alcohol-involved. Over the 78-hour Christmas holiday in Oregon last year, two people died in crashes; both were alcohol-involved.

In recent years, Oregon has seen a reduction in motor vehicle fatalities, in large part due to a commitment by many Oregonians to use proper safety restraints and avoid driving while impaired.

“The progress we have seen to date is in part the result of thousands of caring Oregonians,” Kitzhaber noted in his proclamation. “By working together toward a common goal of reducing drunk and drugged driving, we will enjoy a safer roadway system.”

ODOT, Oregon State Police, Oregon Sheriff’s Association and Oregon Association Chiefs of Police offer the following advice to help ensure safe holidays:

n Don’t drink and drive, don’t ride with anyone who has been drinking.

n Never use illegal drugs.

n Be aware of the affect your prescriptions and other medications may have on your alertness, and take necessary steps to avoid driving.

n Volunteer to be a designated driver.

n If someone who’s been drinking insists on driving, take his/her keys.

n If hosting a gathering, provide non-alcoholic beverages.

n Use public transit or local drive-home services provided by taxis and other companies.

n If walking or riding a bike, enhance your visibility by wearing bright or reflective clothing or shoes.

n Always use a seat belt.

n Avoid travel after midnight, especially on weekends and holidays.

n Drive defensively at all times; be on the lookout for bicyclists and pedestrians.

n Report drunk drivers by calling 1-800-DRUNK or dialing 9-1-1.

“We want everyone to be safe on our roadways while they are out during this busy holiday season,” said Captain Ted Phillips, director of the Oregon State Police Patrol Services Division. “That is why OSP troopers, deputies and city police officers will be stepping up enforcement throughout the month to catch and arrest impaired drivers. If you are found to be impaired, there will be no warnings and no excuses.”

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As of Nov. 26, Oregon has had 55 pedestrian fatalities (unofficial); in all of 2011, 47 pedestrians died in motor vehicle-related traffic crashes. Safety advocates are putting a special emphasis on pedestrian safety, with “See and Be Seen” campaigns. A new pedestrian safety brochure called “Do the Safety Step” is available from ODOT’s http://1.usa.gov/11azHYu.

In addition to increased traffic during the holidays, weather plays a major part in crash frequency; December 2011 had the second highest number of crashes for the year (November was first).

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Parkdale third graders sing "12 Disaster Days of Christmas"

Welcome to your sing-able Christmas gift list. What follows is an emergency rendition of “12 Days of Christmas” – for outfitting your home or car in case of snow storm, earthquake, flood or other emergency. Read it as a simple list, or sing it to the tune of “12 Days” – you know, as in “ … and a partridge in a pear tree…” Not to make light of it, but the song is a familiar framework for a set of gift ideas that you could consider gathering together, even if the recipient already owns items such as a bunch of coats, tire chains and flashlights. Stores throughout the Gorge are stocked up on all these items. Buying all 12 days might be prohibitive, but here are three ideas for checking any of the dozen off your list (notations follow, 1-12.) The gift items needed to stay warm, dry and safe are also coded to suggest items in your abode (A) in your car (C) or both (B). 12 Gallons of Water (A) 11 Family meals (B) 10 Cans of propane (A) 9 Hygiene bags (B) 8 Packs of batteries (A) 7 Spare coats (B) 6 Bright red flares (C) 5 Cozy blankets (B) 4 Tire chains (C) 3 Flashlights (B) 2 cell phone chargers (B) 1 And a crush-proof first aid kit (B) Price ranges? Here’s a few quotes for days Three, Two, Four and Nine: n A family gift of flashlights (three will run $15-30, Hood River Supply, Tum-A-Lum) n Cell phone chargers (two will run $30-60) n Tire chains (basic set, $30, Les Schwab, returnable if unused for the winter) n Family meals ($100 or so should cover the basics for three or four reasonably well-fed days) n The home kit should be kept in a handy place near an exit, and remember that water needs to be replenished every few months. If you have a solid first aid kit already, switch out the gift idea with “and-a-sto-o-u-t- tub-for it-all …” Otherwise, it’s a case of assembling your home or car kits and making sure all members of the family know what the resources are and how to use them (ie flares and propane). Emergency situations are at worst life-threatening, at best deeply uncomfortable if you and your family are left without power for an extended period, or traveling and find yourself in a situation where you need to wait out a storm, lengthy traffic delay, or other crisis. Notes on the 12 gift ideas: 12 – Gallons of water: that’s one per person in a four-member family to last for three days, the recommended minimum to be prepared for utility outages. 11 – Easy-open packaged goods, energy bars, dried food and nuts are good things to include for nutrition. Think of what your family of four needs for three days to stay fortified and hydrated (see number 12). Can-opener also recommended 10 – If you have a propane camping stove, keep extra fuel handy. 9 – Hygiene bags: put packaged moistened towelettes, toilet paper, and plastic ties in large garbage bags (for personal sanitation) Resource list courtesy of Hood River County Emergency Management, Barbara Ayers, manager/ 541-386-1213. The county also reminds residents to Get a Kit, Make A Plan to connect your family if separated, and Stay Informed. See www.co.hood-river.or.us to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge



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