BEND, OR -- Preliminary numbers from the Oregon Department of Transportation show a rise in the number of traffic-related deaths, last year. ODOT’s Peter Murphy says full 2015 statistics are not yet available, but he suspects there is one big reason for the increase in fatal crashes. "It seems that volumes are up; we count that, we know how many people are traveling on the highways. There’s just a correlation between the number of people traveling and the number of crashes taking place." He adds, "And then, the other thing is, just as an anecdotal observation from my particular perspective – and I do travel the highways, and I do look out to see what’s going on – it seems like people are driving faster. I don’t know that, but it just seems to me that there’s a number of people that are traveling in excess of the speed limit."
Murphy tells KBND News it could get worse after the state raises speed limits
on a number of rural highways, including Highway 97, on March first. "And, it still all comes down – whether you’re speeding or not – driving for the conditions that you find yourself in, is really going to do the best you can to avoid those kinds of troubles."
Early numbers show 447 traffic-related deaths statewide in 2015, compared to 356 the year before; that’s a 25.6% year-over-year increase. Official numbers won’t be released until summer.