Oregon State Police will be cracking down on dangerous and impaired drivers by increasing patrols on the state's highways in preparation for the deadliest major holiday weekend of the year.
Troopers will be participating in Operation C.A.R.E. (Combined Accident Reduction Effort), a nationwide law enforcement mobilization.
According to the Oregon Department of Transportation's Fatality Analysis Reporting Unit (FARS), more than 270 people have been killed during the Fourth of July holiday weekend since 1970 on Oregon highways, an average of nearly eight fatalities a year.
The second deadliest holiday weekend, Labor Day, has nearly 245 fatalities during the same period.
"The statistics don't lie. More people are killed on our highways during the Fourth of July holiday period than any major holiday weekend of the year," said Capt. Gerry Gregg, director of the OSP Patrol Services Division. "We are planning on putting more troopers on our highways to catch those who drive in such a way that may lead to a traffic crash happening."
Last year during the holiday weekend, OSP troopers responded to 289 reported traffic crashes.
A study released last year by 21st Century Insurance and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety announced that July 4 is the deadliest day of the year on America's roads, followed closely by July 3 and July 2. The statistics showed an average of 161 motor vehicle-related fatalities occur on July 4. This is followed by an average of 149 deaths on July 3 and 138 deaths on July 2. The daily national average is 117 deaths per day.
"Even though our current staffing levels prevent 24-hour coverage on any of our highways, our objective is to get more troopers on the highways during Operation C.A.R.E. to prevent these senseless deaths from happening," Capt. Gregg said.
Operation C.A.R.E. is a national program designed to reduce crashes, fatalities and injuries on the nation's highways during major holiday weekends. This year's statistical counting period begins Friday and ends at 11:59 p.m. Monday.
FARS statistics for last year's Fourth of July holiday reporting period indicate six people were killed during the 54-hour period in five fatal crashes on Oregon highways. Another four fatalities occurred in three crashes on Monday, July 5, when most people were traveling home from the extended weekend. The fatal crashes occurred in Coos, Grant, Jackson, Lane, Klamath, Marion, Multnomah, and Umatilla counties.
Since 1970, the deadliest Fourth of July holiday weekend occurred in 1980 when 19 people died during a 78-hour period.
As part of the national strategy, OSP troopers place a high priority on reducing impaired driving crashes. Driving under the influence of intoxicants still accounts for more than a third of traffic fatalities, nationally and in Oregon. The dangers associated with drinking and driving jump during this holiday weekend. FARS statistics show that since 1985, half of the fatalities during the Fourth of July weekend are alcohol-related.
Overtime grant funding provided through ODOT will be used by OSP to put more state troopers on patrol to address high priority enforcement problems such as impaired and dangerous drivers, traffic crash and crime incident response, and assisting disabled motorists. Last year during the holiday period OSP troopers arrested 110 people for DUII, issued more the 1,600 speed-related citations and assisted nearly 600 motorists.