BEND, OR -- The State Transportation Commission meets today to consider a report claiming Central Oregon's 'drinking culture,' from being built around breweries, makes the region more likely to have serious alcohol related traffic accidents.
Deschutes County Commissioner Tammy Baney, who serves as the Transportation Commission Chair, says driving under the influence is a state-wide issue, but the Transportation Commission has language in its 159-page report that driving under the influence is a big problem in their Region 4, of which Deschutes County is part, along with Crook, Jefferson, Gilliam, Klamath, Lake, Sherman, Wasco, and Wheeler counties. "Impaired driving continues to be one of the top highway safety concerns for Region 4. The number of fatal and serious injuries peaked in 2016 to the highest count in 5 years." The Commission says alcohol and / or drug use was involved in 25% of fatal and serious traffic injuries for Region 4, and they cite the flat, straight highways as promoting high-speed driving and the longer distances between populations centers as a factor that increases response and travel times for First Responders.
The report says contributing factors as Central Oregon's being a major tourist destination, its having the most breweries per capita in the state, and its several beer themed events like the Ale Trail, the Beer Run, and Oktoberfest. There is even a Battle of the Breweries Blood Drive through the Red Cross.
Baney says beer may be a large part of Bend's social life, but it's important to be responsible when it comes to alcohol use. "It's important to talk about what it means to have safe usage of breweries, and we have legalized marijuana in Oregon as well and so, I think, the use of substances, whether that's marijuana or alcohol, communities have a responsibility to be talking about how you do that safely."
According to Baney, the purpose of today's discussion is to figure out how to have fun safely, because being safe should be everyone's priority. "Statewide, there's a responsibility to be looking at how we encourage niche markets and how we encourage tourism, and how we encourage the cultivation of distilleries and breweries and et cetera, and we marry that up with the safety aspects of how you do that responsibly and as adults."