BEND, OR -- With a record number of people expected to hit the road, this holiday weekend, the Oregon Department of Transportation is hoping to keep everyone moving. ODOT’s Peter Murphy says Incident Response trucks will patrol highways across the state. "They try to get ahold of accidents, crashes, or whatever happens as quickly as they can to move things out of the way."
While there aren’t any major highway projects underway in Central Oregon, Murphy says ODOT is shutting down construction across the state, through the long weekend, "Getting stuff out of the way, getting crews, getting cones, you know, getting all that stuff off the highway system so we can be as mobile as possible out there on the system."
Despite those efforts, Murphy says conditions are still ripe for congestion. "We’ve got record numbers of cars on the road, coming into the Central Oregon area. We’re going to add Fourth of July on top of that; we’ve got Rainbow people coming in for their activities, and it’s just going to be an extremely busy highway over this Fourth of July holiday." Murphy tells KBND News Highway 97 at Empire logged nearly 10% more vehicles in May compared to the year before. "What that means, ultimately, for motorists is that they just have to pay more attention, which is an easy thing to say and much harder to do when you’re out there on the road. But, what we’ve noticed is that distracted driving is the key to so many of these crashes. And then you throw in a record number of drivers on the road and you’ve got the potential for some serious problems." He recommends leaving early, so you don’t feel pressured to speed, make sure kids are entertained, so they're not a distraction and stay off your phone.
Multiple law enforcement agencies will conduct enhanced patrols on Highway 97 near Lava Butte, south of Bend, Friday afternoon. That area has seen a dramatic increase in crashes, recently. Officers will focus on speed and distracted driving.