BEND, OR -- Not quite a month after speed limits rose on rural highways across the state, Oregon State Police and the Department of Transportation report local drivers are handling the change well. ODOT’s Peter Murphy was initially concerned there would be more crashes or speeding tickets.
He tells KBND News many drove faster than the posted speed, prior to the March first switch. "Most people were probably going in the 60-65 range, so it’s not that big an increase for a lot of folks. I think enforcement has stepped up because now there’s kind of a firm limit on the top end; the OSP is keeping an eye out for that. In fact, on that day, there was some increased presence."
OSP reports in general, drivers are respecting the new speed limit. Troopers have not seen an increase in speed-related crashes on Highways 97 or 20 around Bend, nor have the written more citations.
Murphy says he’s still concerned, especially since winter in the High Desert isn’t quite over, despite what the calendar says. "It all comes down to, the driver who is going down the road at whatever speed, using his or her best skills and abilities and if that means you don’t go 65 – up on the upper levels, as you go to La Pine and then south of there, you’ve still got a good likelihood that there’s ice on the road this time of year."
And, he says despite their speed, drivers still need to pay attention to conditions. "Driver behavior is the factor in by far and away the majority of the crashes we have. Whether it’s speed, or not paying attention, or taking a turn in the wrong place or trying to pass in the wrong spot, driver behavior is the principle cause of crashes throughout the state of Oregon."