How Dangerous Are Our Roads, Really?

For some people, a car, pick-up truck, or motorcycle represents little more than a form of transportation. To others, a motor vehicle can represent freedom, convenience, style, and real Americana. But regardless of the reason, it’s clear that Oregonians love their cars. In a State with a population only slightly exceeding four million residents, Oregon has approximately 4.1 million registered vehicles, and almost 3.1 million licensed drivers.

It’s probably fair to say that most of us will drive an automobile the majority of the days of our adult lives. But with all this driving comes the darker side of things. Each year the Oregon Department of Motor Vehicles files approximately 100,000 accident reports and suspends driver’s licenses almost 450,000 times. Oregon drivers are convicted of more than 400,000 driver offenses each year. And beyond these statistics, we see with our own eyes the motor vehicle crashes occurring on our roads on a daily basis. In this article, we will discuss whether our roads are becoming more dangerous. We will also provide a few recommendations to help keep yourself safe.

Trends in Motor Vehicle Crashes

In Oregon, traffic fatalities decreased significantly from 455 in 2007 to a low of 317 in 2010. This generally mirrored successes across the nation in making our roads safer through the decades. Unfortunately, fatalities trended upwards in 2011 and 2012. After a decline in 2013, a negative trend began in 2014, with fatalities increasing significantly in 2016 to 495. Other parts of the country have suffered similar troubling trends. Some advocates for safer laws blame a disproportionate percentage of the problem on young drivers and distracted driving.

Safe Driving Tips

Many publications offer safe-driving tips. In fact, your own insurance company probably offers helpful suggestions on its website. Here are a few of our favorites.

  • Focus and avoid distractions. Maintaining focus while driving is paramount. One moment of inattention can cause disastrous results. One of the greatest distractions of this era is texting and other uses of smart phones. Do not attempt to text or read emails. Limit telephone conversations. Young drivers should limit the number of passengers they carry.


  • Do not drive while impaired. This seems obvious, but impaired driving continues to cause many accidents.


  • Always wear your seatbelt. Not only does a seatbelt help reduce injuries, but it may also help hold a driver in position to better control the vehicle.


  • Maintain reasonable speeds. Many accidents are caused by excessive speed.


  • Drive defensively, especially around semi-trucks. Keep space between yourself and other vehicles. The real art to defensive driving is to assume other drivers will act erratically, and to have a plan when they do.


  • Carefully maintain your vehicle. Always make sure your vehicle is operating properly. Windshield wipers, brakes, and other systems should be checked regularly. Take a moment to ensure that sight lines are correct and that mirrors are properly adjusted.


  • Plan your route. When possible, avoid high-traffic areas.


  • Take a driving course. This is especially helpful for young drivers. However, anyone can benefit from professional training.

Call with Questions

If you’ve been injured in a motor vehicle crash, you probably have questions about the legal system. For example, what role does insurance play, and whose insurance should pay? How are medical bills handled? What if you can’t work for a while? If you have these or other questions, please call us. The experienced injury lawyers at Nelson MacNeil Rayfield routinely handle these complicated issues and will be happy to help. After all, we strongly believe that the only way to protect all of society is to hold wrongdoers accountable for their actions.


Helpful Links:

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) Data:

Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, Highway Loss Data Institute Large Truck data:

Statistics on Oregon Crash Fatalities:


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